Healthy and Energising Snacks to Reach For

When it comes to snacking, we are all guilty. Life always seems to find a way to keep us busy and reaching for that all-too-convenient snack on the go seems like a no brainer.

 

While convenient, most of these snacks are low in filling nutrients such as protein and fibre. However, there are, of course, plenty of options to choose from to help you ditch added sugars and refined carbs, and keep you energised between meals.

 

“I personally would recommend avoiding packaged and highly processed foods as they’re typically low in fibre and protein, and high in sugar, chemicals, and preservatives,” says Registered Dietitian Malkoff-Cohen.

 

“Although sugary foods may temporarily spike your energy, once insulin is released to bring blood glucose back to normal, you will experience a crash and most likely crave more sugar-filled foods.”

 

However, snacks need not necessarily be junk food! Nutritious snacks are a viable option, and can even aid in boosting our energy throughout the day, as well as keeping us full and satiated!

Why We Snack

Most of us indulge in snacks not because we’re truly hungry, but simply because they are readily available. Over time, it becomes a habitual desire to fulfil a need to reach for an emotional and physical boost.

 

To start correcting your snacking habits, consider tackling the root causes of your snacking habits first.

Stress Eating

Snacking is a common reaction when we experience stress or anxiety as the brain registers it as a distress signal from the body and misinterprets it as hunger.

 

Studies have shown that emotional eaters and those under psychological stress have been found to eat more energy-dense snacks, especially those higher in sugar and fat.

 

And while we might not be able to control our stress levels, we can definitely control our snacking tendencies in response to it!

Distracted Eating

Another common root cause of snacking is boredom. Doing mundane tasks for long periods of time can feel monotonous, so we turn our attention to food as a way to focus on external stimuli when we are overwhelmed with boredom. Sometimes, it is also a result of restlessness, giving us a way to preoccupy ourselves.

 

Some studies have even found that snacking not caused by hunger is associated with a higher overall calorie intake. The excess calories we take in when we snack can lead to unwanted weight gain and other health concerns.

Thirst Relief

Here’s a little known fact: more often than not, snacking occurs as a result of dehydration! Our subconscious recognises this discomfort but misidentifies it as hunger.

 

To identify this root cause for snacking, notice when you have non-selective cravings! This is when you have the desire to eat just about anything. An easy fix for this can just be drinking water, and your urge to snack will fade away.

Healthy Snacks Replacements

While it is certainly possible to reduce snacking as much as you can, snacks can fulfil a genuinely functional role in our health. By opting for healthy and balanced snacks occasionally, they can provide a much-needed boost of energy, or even help out in weight loss.

 

Additionally, healthy snacking can help you increase your intake of nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.

Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds

The classic combination of protein, fat, and carbs will fuel your brain and body for hours. While all fruits are nutritious and make good snacks, some in particular serve a more specific purpose. For instance, bananas are considered the most nutritious choice for a snack as they are jam packed with complex carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is used in energy metabolism and complex carbs, which break down to glucose as sugar for energy.

 

For nuts, consider tossing mixed nuts and dried fruits together and making a trail mix. They’re handy, nutritious, versatile, and you can also choose nuts or dried fruits that you like.

 

And for the traditional sunflower or pumpkin seeds, nut spreads and seed butter make healthy alternatives and are great as a healthy and delicious topping over dried or fresh fruit!

 

Greek Yoghurt

Greek yoghurt is an excellent choice of protein, and they make a healthy and delicious substitute for ice cream. Be careful though, opting for yoghurt sweetened with sugar or syrup or molasses tends to negate most of the benefits. Consider choosing natural sweeteners such as coconut nectar instead.

 

Coconut nectar is low in GI, which will help you feel satiated longer as it causes blood sugar levels to rise and fall at a slow and steady pace. Here’s another tip: opt for low-fat or whole milk yoghurt instead of fat-free to promote more stable blood sugar. Fat slows the digestive process, which supports more stable blood glucose.

Seaweed

Other than being a delicious snack, studies indicate that seaweed contains comparable protein and amino acids to beef, and are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.

 

A 2021 study indicated that the polysaccharides in seaweed contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components, and that seaweed could even potentially help protect against cancer and viral infection. Isn’t that a sweet bonus?

 

Try making a nori roll with seaweed and wholegrain rice! This versatile snack is a good fibre-rich idea that allows you to customise its healthy ingredients to your taste.

Common “Healthy” Snacks to Avoid

Oftentimes, snacks that have been popularised as healthy are actually packed with sugar and fat, lacking nutrients. A good example for this is low-fat foods, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.

Granola

Surprise! Granola has been raved as a healthy snack for decades, however, that reputation is not exactly well-earned. While granola can be healthy and filling, many of the brands at the supermarket are made using butter, syrup, and white sugar.

 

Words they use to advertise granolas such as ‘pure’ and ‘natural’ can be misleading. Therefore, it is best to have a look at the list of ingredients and nutritional information for greater insights. Overall, granola is low in protein and high in carbohydrates and sugar. They may be made for taste more than they are for nutrition.

 

A healthy alternative for granola? Try reaching for fresh fruits instead!

Energy Bars

A popular choice for those looking for a “healthy snack”, energy bars can be a great way to fuel your muscles, but most are actually higher in calories than some candy bars. With such high amounts of sugar and synthetic additives, energy bars make an undesirable source of fibre and protein.

 

Even sugar-free energy bars are not as healthy as they seem, with research published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine linking the artificial sweeteners used to an increased risk for weight gain and sugar cravings.

 

A healthy alternative for energy bars is to make DIY energy bars with almond butter, oats, almonds, dried fruit, and coconut oil instead!

Low-fat or Fat Free Salad Dressing

Here’s a myth buster — low-fat foods were once thought to be weight loss-friendly, when in fact, they’re often just as bad, if not worse, than their full-fat counterparts! This is just as true for low-fat salad dressing. Low-fat salad dressings make up for the lack of fat with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, and synthetic additives and preservatives instead.

 

Most store-bought dressings might even contain more sugar than a candy bar, especially when pre-packaged salad is slathered with it.

 

The healthy alternative is pretty simple. Try making a homemade salad dressing with an olive oil or balsamic vinegar base to control the amount of what goes into your snack!

Healthy Snacks, Healthy Life

When you feel like your energy is dwindling in between meals, and hunger starts kicking in or you need a pick me up between meals, by all means, snack away! However, reach for more filling and nutritious snacks.

 

Whole foods are always a better choice than foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. This is essential to consider when choosing a snack to maintain energy levels.

 

By planning ahead and focusing on nutrient-rich foods, snacks can even support your weight management goals by keeping you satisfied between meals. The most important thing to remember is that snacking is not necessarily a bad thing to eliminate — there’s a wide abundance of healthy food that include protein, fibre, and healthy fats to keep you full throughout the day and make healthy choices at your next meal!