If you’re looking to maintain, or even lose weight, something that people often assume is that you shouldn’t snack between meals. But this simply isn’t the case. The thing to remember is that we are all unique and our appetites, food preferences and nutritional needs are completely individual to you. Although the word ‘snacking’ is often thought of in a negative light, such as eating when we don’t need to throughout the day, this shouldn’t be the case. Instead, let’s think of snacks as an extra window of opportunity to boost our intake of nutrients such as carbohydrates for energy, protein to keep us satiated, vitamins and minerals to meet our nutritional requirements, and healthy fats to help absorb some of those fat soluble vitamins, too!
We all know the feeling when it gets to around 11 or 3 o’clock in the day, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea or a coffee and before you know it, you’re saying yes to a biscuit or two, as well. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the occasional biscuit, or sweet treat (everything in moderation!), however - you may notice that they provide little in the way of long lasting energy to keep you going until your next meal, especially if you have a job where you’re on your feet the majority of the time. This is because they can be low in both protein and fibre, which are two nutrients that are digested more slowly, meaning they are able to keep us feeling fuller for longer. This is in comparison to a biscuit high in added sugar which can provide a quick boost of energy, but may leave us feeling hungry again a short time after, meaning we may be more likely to go back for more later on in the day.
The good news is, there are a number of options for an alternative (and tasty) snack that provides a source of both protein and fibre along with nutrients such as healthy fats, vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling energised, fuelled & satisfied! A mantra to remember is ‘PROTEIN and PRODUCE’ - a source of protein being nuts, pulses, beans, seeds, eggs, yogurt, cheese for example, and produce being fruit (fresh, dried, or tinned/ frozen) and vegetables for fibre.
Low fat cheese & an apple - Aim to opt for no more than a small matchbox size of cheese and pair with a piece of fruit such as an apple which is high in fibre (keep the skin on too!)
Houmous & chopped veggies - Houmous is a both a great source of protein as it’s made from chickpeas, and also healthy unsaturated fats if it’s made with olive oil, too - which helps to absorb our fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K
Fresh fruit & nuts - Nuts are another example of providing a variety of vitamins and minerals to meet our nutritional needs and they contain both protein and fibre too - try to vary your options throughout the week. For example, almonds are a great source of Vitamin E, whilst brazil nuts provide selenium!
Dried fruit & nuts - Although dried fruits are higher in (naturally occurring) sugars in comparison to fresh/ frozen fruit, this doesn't mean we can't include them as a healthy snack. Just 30g provides one of our 5-a-day and by pairing them with a small portion of nuts, the carbohydrates from the fruit are digested more slowly thanks to the source of fibre, fats and protein.
Popcorn - An exception to the protein and produce guide, however - popcorn can be a convenient and healthier swap to crisps and they do contain some fibre too (did you know popcorn is a whole grain?). You can even flavour with herbs & spices of your choice such as cinnamon for a sweet treat.
Wholegrain crackers with peanut butter & banana- Peanut butter is a great alternative to butter as it's lower in saturated fat, a source of protein and tastes delicious too! Pair with a few slices of banana on a whole grain cracker for a satisfying and nutritious snack.
Low fat Greek style yogurt & berries - A great option if you have a sweet tooth which is high in protein and kinder on the teeth in comparison to shop-bought fruity flavoured yogurts that may be high in added sugar.
Medjool dates with peanut butter & 1-2 squares of dark chocolate - Another one for those with a sweet tooth, dates are a great source of energy as well as the minerals potassium, magnesium and copper. Dark chocolate is often also lower in sugar in comparison to milk chocolate and has a stronger flavour which can help to manage portions.
HEALTHY SNACK RECIPE
4 ingredient home-made energy balls
50g dried apricots
160g pitted dates
70g nuts (of any kind)
2 tbsp cacao powder
Melted dark chocolate for coating
1 handful of desiccated coconut for coating
1️. Add the nuts into a food processor and blitz until crumbled before adding the dates and apricots. Blend until combined then add the cocoa.
2️. Roll up golf-ball sized amounts of the mixture, before rolling in desiccated coconut (optional) and placing on a plate covered in grease proof paper, store in the fridge.
3. If coating in melted chocolate, leave to set for a couple of hours before coating, and then set in the fridge for a further 2 hours.
4. Store in the fridge/freezer and enjoy for a tasty & satisfying snack!
By Nichola Ludlam-Raine, Specialist Dietitian at Ramsay Health Care