July 27, 2010

Snack your way to better health

The Canuck came home the other day with a muesli bar a company had been giving out at the train station as a promo. He suggested that since he had no idea how to tell if the bar was a good snack, maybe it would make a good blog topic. Full of great ideas that man.

Having a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon can stop you from getting so hungry that you overeat at mealtimes. The problem is that a lot of the snacks we reach for have loads of salt or sugar, with no trace of any fibre, vitamins or minerals.

So how do you choose a great healthy snack?
Good healthy snacks include some carbohydrate, a little protein and not too much fat. Great healthy snacks have all this and more: some vitamins and minerals as a bonus.

If you’re buying a snack take a look at the nutrition information panel on the pack; it’s full of really useful information about all the nutrients in your snack. Things to look for are:

Energy - aim for less than 600kJ (143 Calories) in the serve.

Fat – go for snacks with less than 10g saturated fat per 100 grams

Sugars – try to avoid snacks with lots of added sugar. Around 20 – 30 grams of carbohydrate is enough for a good snack.

Salt (sodium) – a low salt food has less than 500mg of sodium per 100g

Other good stuff – try and have a snack that has one of these in it:

  • Calcium - snack time is a great opportunity to get one of your 3 daily serves of dairy (300mg of calcium per serve)
  • Fibre – snacks with fibre help to boost your fibre intake closer to the goal of 25 - 30 grams of fibre a day
  • Protein – good to have some of this in your snack as protein helps keep you full for longer so will stave off the munchies until dinner time

Give these a go
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
  • One sushi roll
  • A small tub of low-fat yoghurt or chocolate mousse (200g)
  • A handful of nuts, about 15 almonds, with some sultanas or other dried fruit
  • A piece of fruit – cut up and use a fork if you don’t want sticky fingers
  • A piece of raisin toast or a fruit English muffin with a slice of cheese
These ideas will make sure you always have a healthy snack at hand:
  • Take a supply of healthy snacks to work to keep in your desk drawer or in the work fridge
  • Keep a couple of indestructible healthy snacks like small cereal bars or sesame snacks in your car or handbag for those times you’re hungry on the run
  • Check out the dairy section at the supermarket – there are all kinds of small packs of healthy snacks out there

Sometimes the healthy option just isn’t going to cut it
The snacks with vitamins and minerals are the ones that will give you energy and keep a spring in your step so try to go for those most of the time. But when you really need a pick me up try:

6 jelly beans
A mini chocolate bar
A Paddle Pop or Skinny Cow ice cream
A snack pack of chips (30g)

To snack or not to snack
It’s normal to sometimes feel hungry between meals, especially if the last meal was a few hours ago, but make sure you are eating because you’re hungry and not out of habit, boredom or emotions. Instead try to think of other ways to help reduce stress like a brisk walk around the block or a phone call to a friend.

...and the promo muesli bar?
Well, the cereal bar The Canuck brought home matched all the tips I listed above for a good snack except it was 800kJ so a little too much energy for a snack. On the positive side, it comes in two handy bars so if you just eat one of the bars that’s only 400kJ; perfect if you save the other for later or share with a friend!

Do you have a favourite healthy snack? I love to hear new ideas so please write a comment and share your 3pm munchie solution

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