To snack, or not to snack…there lies the question. Eating between meals is extremely common with 96 per cent of us regularly consuming snack foods, according to new research. But why do we reach for a snack? While snacks can quell hunger, there are often other factors like boredom, the time of day, emotions and mood which can influence our snacking between meals.
Should we be snacking?
Contrary to popular belief, there is actually no strong evidence that snacking assists with maintaining a healthy weight. However, planned nutritious snacks can play an important role in contributing to a healthy diet.
This is because a healthy snack can keep your energy levels constant between meals and help you meet your daily nutrient needs. Often, a small snack between meals can prevent you from getting too hungry which can lead to overeating at your next meal.
What types of snacks should I be eating?
Aim to eat snacks that help meet your nutrient needs for the day. Have a nutritious snack that satisfies your hunger without being high in kilojoules/calories, fat, salt and sugar.
Foods with a significant amount of protein, or foods high in fibre can help curb hunger. Protein rich foods include dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese, eggs, nuts, fish, legumes and poultry like chicken or other meat.
High fibre foods are vegetables and legumes, fruit and wholegrains. A good high fibre and protein combination is cheese and tomato on a wholegrain cracker.
Although it's fine to have a less-than-healthy snack every once in a while, most snacks should consist of nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, reduced fat dairy and nuts or seeds.
NAQ Nutrition’s Top 10 healthy snacks:
- Small handful unsalted nuts /seeds
- Grainy crackers topped with avocado or cottage cheese
- Plain reduced fat yoghurt (can add fresh fruit)
- Piece of fruit (nature’s ultimate healthy snack – get creative with fruit salads and freezing fruit)
- Small tin of four bean mix or reduced salt baked beans (1/3 cup)
- Raisin toast with ricotta cheese spread
- Vegie sticks with healthy dips – hummus, beetroot, tzatziki
- Small tin canned tuna or salmon
- Boiled eggs
- A glass of reduced fat milk
Not all snacks are created equal!
Sometimes, you might need a quick convenient snack and opt for a packaged product. In these situations take a look at the nutrition panel and ingredients list to help decide if it’s a healthy choice.
Look for snacks that have:
- Less than 3 grams of saturated fat per 100g
- At least 3 grams or more of fibre per serve
- Less than 120mg of sodium per 100g
- Less than 15g of sugar per 100g. Check that sugar or other alternative names for sugar are not listed high on the ingredients list (i.e. dextrose, fructose, sucrose, honey, malt)
- Mainly whole food ingredients with few additives
- Keep in mind that most packaged products come in larger serving sizes than we need. A good guide is to keep your serve to less than 600kJ.
Finally, just remember that everyone is different and people snack for different reasons. Next time you’re snacking, be mindful of whether you’re eating because you’re actually hungry or if your snacking is due to boredom or habit.