I love snacking, always have, although my snack choices have changed dramatically over the years. Snacks I’d now consider in the “not-actually-really food” pile, were once my go-to's – lots of refined, processed, sugary foods contained within brightly coloured boxes with cute cartoons sprawled across the front. These options are one of the main reasons snacking gets a bad rap – they lack much nutrition, and are a one-way ticket aboard a roller-coaster of up-down energy levels.
To snack or not to snack? On the daily conveyer belt of food intake, snacks are a normal fixture for many. Whether they’re a necessary component of our day is widely debated, but as with everything in nutrition it’s worth taking into account the individual, their energy needs and health goals. Some of us work better when including snacks between main meals, particularly if we tend to eat smaller main meals, are irregular with eating times, are sensitive to changes to our blood sugar levels (and may experience irritability and dips in concentration when we go too long without eating) or have high energy needs e.g. athletes and children. If we struggle with aspects of emotional eating (which is so increasingly common), then including a nutritious, satiating snack between main meals can be helpful in preventing the cycle of bingeing or overeating – we may tend to become more prone to overeating when we restrict food or go for longer periods without eating.
When selecting snacks aim for wholefood (unprocessed or as minimally processed as possible) options that are packed with nutrients. Low sugar and high fiber choices with a protein/healthy fat component are great – these macronutrients (protein in particular) are slow to be digested, and so will help keep blood sugar levels stable and you feeling great.
Here are my favourite snack ideas:
1. Veggie sticks with dip
The more veggies the merrier - always. We all know we should be eating more veggies and why not get some in at snack time? For a wonderfully healthy snack pair 1-2 tbsp of dip (hummus/nut butter/pesto) with your favourite veggie sticks - carrots, cucumber, capsicum and sugar snap peas work well. The addition of dip will leave you feeling satiated, as well as supply dietary fat which is needed to help absorb all those fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) within your veggies. That's smart snacking.
If you want to try making your own hummus, give this garlic hummus recipe a whirl.
2. Boiled eggs
Packed with essential nutrients and a good combination of protein and healthy fats, boiled eggs are a winner. For sake of convenience boil a few at a time and then keep in the fridge for a speedy snack on the run.
3. Berries with unsweetened yoghurt
Mix together unsweetened plain yoghurt with a handful of fresh/frozen berries e.g. raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. Go for a probiotic yoghurt to help support a healthy happy gut. For a treat add some finely chopped 80% dark chocolate - so luscious!
4. Apple slices with nut butter
Slice an apple into wedges and dip into 1 tbsp nut butter - delicious. When purchasing a nut butter go for one with an ingredients list limited to nuts and a little salt - skip the sugars and added vegetable oils, they're not necessary for the nut butter or your body.
5. Small handful of nuts
Nuts are super nutritious, and a good source of protein, nourishing fats, dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Be mindful of portioning though, they're high energy and so a little goes a long way. I aim for 1/4 cup as a serving.
6. Protein smoothie
Quick, easy and convenient. Blend or shake together a serving of protein powder with 1 cup of your liquid of choice e.g. dairy/rice/almond milk or coconut water. For a delicious alternative decrease the liquid content and blend with a heap of ice to turn it into a frappuccino! If I’m enjoying this smoothie pre/post work-out I’ll add ½ banana for extra energy.
7. Homemade trail mix
Mix together a big batch of your favourite nuts and seeds, and then add extra goodies like coconut chips, cacao nibs/chopped dark chocolate or a sprinkle of cinnamon. Pre-portion into bags for a convenient grab-and-go snack.
Avocados are a beautiful food packed full of skin-loving dietary fats, free-radical fighting antioxidants and belly-loving fiber. To enjoy as a snack slice one in half, sprinkle with sesame seeds or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar/lemon juice, and then dig in with a spoon, or otherwise spread onto a rice cake or grainy cracker. The combination of dietary fiber and healthy fats make for a filling snack.
9. Edamame beans
A cup of edamame beans provides a hefty 17g dose of protein and 8g of dietary fiber - together this duo will leave you feeling surprisingly satisfied. Edamame is neat in that it's one of the rare plant-based sources of complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids needed for health, which are otherwise typically limited to animal-derived foods e.g. eggs, chicken or beef. I buy frozen deshelled bags at the supermarket and keep in the freezer at work. I like mine with a sprinkling of sea salt.
10. Homemade soup
Avoid the “just add water” soup-in-a-cup mixes, and instead batch cook your own and freeze mug-sized portions. It’s far more nutritious and is particularly satisfying when the weather is colder. Veggie soups are a great way to bump up your daily intake of vegetables and dietary fiber, although you add a tin of lentils to help bump up the protein content too.
11. Cheese and fruit
I usually aim for around a 20g piece as a snack and will enjoy with a small piece of fruit. Fruit makes a great snack, but it's good to pair it with a bit of protein to help curb your appetite until your next meal.
12. Bliss balls! Or a little homemade baking.
You can't beat bliss balls or a little homemade baking as a treat. On weekends I'll whip up a big batch of bliss balls and keep them in the freezer for the weeks ahead, or maybe cook a yummy banana loaf when spotty over-ripe bananas are in excess in the fruit bowl. Just a note of caution: bliss balls are incredibly moreish and very easy to overindulge in - aim for 1-2 bliss balls as a serving.
Here are my favourite bliss ball recipes on the blog: