By Amanda Laird
Nutritious snacks are integral to a healthy nutrition program. Healthy snacks will keep your energy up and your blood sugar balanced between meals, especially important if you’re often going long stretches of time between meals. Those suffering from a lack of appetite or with limited mobility may also benefit from snacking throughout the day instead of eating two or three larger meals that may be difficult to digest.
My clients often tell me that knowing what counts as a healthy snack can be challenging, particularly when they’re on the go when junk food is everywhere. Here are a few strategies to follow for smart snacking!
What to avoid
If you’re feeling hungry between meals avoid processed junk foods that are full of sugar or salt. Pass on the candy, chips, chocolate bars, party mix, cereal and packaged foods and reach for whole, natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grain crackers or plain, unsweetened yogurt.
I’m not into counting calories but a snack shouldn’t be so big that it’s actually a meal; snacks should be about 100-200 calories. Keep your portion sizes reasonable; think one piece of fruit, a cupped handful of nuts or seeds, or an individual cup of yogurt. While protein or energy bars might look like the perfect on-the-go snack, many are considered meal replacements so make sure you check the serving size on the nutrition panel.
And don’t forget that not all calories are created equal. A small avocado is about 200 calories, but so is a small bag of nacho cheese-flavoured corn chips!
Your snacks should include a little bit of protein, some healthy fat and a complex carbohydrate. This will keep you feeling full for longer and will help you avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes, keeping those sweet cravings at bay. Some nutrition-dense foods like nuts and eggs do double-duty with protein and fat, making them snacking superstars!
Healthy snack ideas
Here are a few of my favourite snack combos for when I need a little bite between meals:
- Piece of fruit with a handful of nuts
- Humus or bean dip & veggie sticks
- Hard boiled egg with pesto
- Whole grain toast with 1/2 an avocado
- Mini bell peppers with tuna or salmon salad
- Yogurt with fresh berries and hemp seeds
- Apple or pear with goat cheese
- Mini smoothie – halve the recipe or save the rest for later
- Small baked sweet potato with tahini
- Steamed edamame with sea salt
- Guacamole with 1/2 whole grain pita or gluten-free crackers
- Mini veggie frittatas baked in muffin tins
- Roast chicken or turkey wrapped in nori (seaweed wraps)
Roasted Beet Hummus
Don’t be intimidated, making your own hummus only takes a few minutes and the results are delicious! Spread on whole grain crackers or pita bread, or serve as a dip with fresh cut vegetables.
1 beet, roasted
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Peel and quarter beet before adding to food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
- Add remaining ingredients to food processor and process until smooth. This should take about two minutes depending on your food processor.
- Transfer hummus to a serving bowl with an extra drizzle of olive oil. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Amanda Laird is a Toronto-based registered holistic nutritionist, writer and speaker who believes that delicious food and healthy food aren’t separate concepts. Visit her website at www.amandalaird.ca and send your nutrition questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.