Give your snacking habit a healthy overhaul with these delicious, dietitian-approved grazing options.
Between working from home and home schooling, many of us have become accustomed to a regular habit of snacking throughout the day. (After all, the fridge is only a few steps away.) Some popular media have painted the snacking phenomenon as a negative side-effect of COVID-19 life, but in fact, snacking can be a healthy part of a balanced diet for both adults and children. Well-chosen snacks can help to prevent weight gain by preventing excessive hunger and overeating at mealtimes. They can help children and adults to maintain focus and concentration throughout the day. And they can contribute valuable nutrients to help you to meet your daily quotas.
Why has snacking got a bad reputation?
Simply, many foods associated with snacking are brimming with sugar, fat and salt, are nutritionally-empty and fail to provide a sense of satiety (meaning that they don’t help to regulate appetite and may even stimulate it). Classic examples include packet potato chips, muesli bars, sweet biscuits or muffins and chocolate. Common ‘snack food’ favourites also contribute a disproportionate amount of energy (kilojoules), increasing the likelihood of exceeding daily kilojoule needs and promoting weight gain. Worse, many snacks are packaged to promote mindless eating of excessive portions (a medium packet of chips or crisps grazed mindlessly at your desk can contribute more than 2,000kJ, which is a third to a quarter of an average adult woman’s daily energy needs and equivalent to a main meal - minus the nutrients).
How can I choose healthy snacks?
The surest way to ensure that a snack is healthy is to make it yourself (see our list of 16 healthy snacks below), however, there may be times when you need a packaged snack for convenience. When evaluating packaged snack options, prioritise these factors specified on the nutrition information panel (NIP):
- Less than 600 kilojoules per serve
- Less than 3 grams of saturated fat per serve
- Less than 200 milligrams of sodium (salt) per serve
- Less than 15 grams of sugars per serve
- Look for low-GI carbohydrates (look for items labelled ‘wholegrain’ or ‘high-fibre’)
How can I make my own healthy snacks?
These balanced, healthy snacks contain 600kJ or fewer. Mix up your snack rotation to keep it interesting and don’t be afraid to get creative by mixing and matching items.
- 19 rice crackers
- 1 small nut bar or breakfast cereal bar (look for less sugar)
- 1 small tin baked beans
- 1 egg with 1 slice bread (no spread)
- 1 cup reduced-fat milk with 1-2 teaspoons malt powder e.g. Milo
- 2 cheese sticks
- 4 mini or 1 large sushi rolls
- Tomato salsa with vegetable sticks (e.g. carrot, celery, capsicum)
- Cottage cheese or ricotta with vegetable sticks
- 1 corn on the cob (no butter)
- Snack pack/handful (30g approx) of almonds, walnuts or unsalted mixed nuts
- Small tin (e.g. 85g) of tuna
- Crunchy peanut butter on a rice cake or celery sticks
- Medium piece of fresh fruit (e.g. apple, banana)
- Crispbread with cheese or avocado
- Raisin bread slice spread with cottage cheese or cheddar
When choosing a snack, consider whether it’s filling and provides prolonged satiety (does it include protein and/or fibre)? Is it low in sugar, fat (especially saturated) and salt? Is it around 600 kilojoules? Favouring these attributes will help you to keep your and your family’s snacking on track.
If you're not sure whether your healthy eating efforts are actually healthy or would like assistance with creating a sustainable, convenient meal and snack rotation, consider a consultation with an accredited practising dietitian (APD), who can skill you up to enjoy delicious, convenient meals and snacks without the guesswork.