Most of the energy and nutrients we get in our diet comes from meals but sometimes you find you need something to keep you going until the next meal. This is where a snack is needed.
Before the 1970s snacks were unheard of but that changed when chocolate manufacturers identified a gap in the market. Now there are many types of chocolate bars, crisps, snack bars etc. to tempt us in between meals. These types of snack are best eaten occasionally as they contain a lot of sugar or processed fats.
So what is a healthy snack and how do you ensure you always have one to hand?
It goes without saying snacks should be a small part of the diet. If you are relying on snacks for a lot of your nutrition, then you aren’t getting enough energy in your meals, so first of all check you are getting a good balance of each of the food groups in your meals and enough of each: carb-rich foods, protein-rich foods and veg.
If you are satisfied your meals are adequate, but you still get a little hungry in between meals and need something to keep you going, then here is my list of my common sense healthy snacks:
Nuts make an excellent snack. They contain fibre so it is difficult to overeat them and a host of nutrients such as good fats, iron, vitamin E and B-vitamins. Most supermarkets sell a re-sealable bag of mixed nuts.
Sometimes a bit of a treat is needed and dark chocolate is a good choice for this. It also has some nutritious qualities with antioxidants, magnesium and theobromines amongst them.
Any kind of fruit is good but if you can get hold of it seasonal fruit is even better as it will contain more of the beneficial nutrients and more taste. At this time of year look out for raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Fruit is a great snack to have in-between meals as the slow release sugars will help to bridge the gap until the next meal.
For those really hungry times I find a fruit scone is really useful to get you to the next meal. It is a kind of a cake but not too sweet or fatty. The bakery section of some supermarkets sell these singly so you can buy just one, when you need it.
Having a yoghurt is a good way to get one of your three dairy portions of the day. Fruit yoghurts contain a lot of sugar so I would recommend a plain one and just add your own fruit.
Cheese and crackers
This also contributes to one of your dairy portions and can be a good substitute for a sugary snack. An ideal portion size for cheese is 50g.
The best types of snacks are as in the rest of the diet, whole foods such as fruit, cheese, yoghurt or nuts. These foods can supplement the diet with extra nutrients rather than providing so called ‘empty’ calories.
Keep these snacks to hand and you will be able to avoid more easily the temptation of milk chocolate bars, crisps and so-called ‘healthy’ snack bars.