Smart snacking guide
Let’s talk about snacks. Often, they’re a source of delight in our day: a little something to break up the morning or get us through the afternoon. You might think of them as a treat, but snacks have an important role to play in keeping you healthy and energised.
“Healthy snacking can improve your health, manage your hunger, assist with weight management, regulate your mood and give you energy to keep going throughout the day,” explains dietitian Alex Parker from The Biting Truth. “Snacking is also an opportunity to sneak in nutrient-rich foods like fruit and vegetables.” Not all snacks are created equal, though – poor snack choices can impact your healthy habits and weight-loss efforts and leave you even hungrier. Want to know how to get those small bites right? Follow this guide for a strong snacking game.
Look at your options
The challenge with snacking? It’s all too easy to make unhealthy choices. Chips, biscuits and chocolate bars are tempting when you’re caught hungry and even snacks that look like they’re a healthier option, such as energy bars and muffins, can be high in SmartPoints® , added sugars and saturated fat.
“Sneaky marketing and misleading labels can sometimes mean that junk foods are marketed as healthy snacks,” says Parker. “Always check the ingredients list of packaged foods and look for products with few ingredients and ingredients that you recognise, rather than numbers or words you can’t pronounce.”
Another common trap is portion size – snacks don’t need to be as big as a meal. “A good guide is to keep your snack to around 600kJ,” says Parker.
Know your needs
Whether or not you snack is totally up to you. If you don’t feel hungry between meals you may not need an extra bite, so it’s a good idea to mindfully check in with your tummy before you munch. But as a general rule, eating every three to four hours is smart as it can help to stabilise blood-sugar levels and maintain your energy, notes dietitian Rachel Scoular, founder of Instagram account @healthyhappyhabits. “Often that looks like breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner,” she says. “If you rise early or exercise first thing, you’re probably looking at a morning snack too.”
The key to a healthy snack is simple: prioritise protein and fibre. “Protein and fibre take longer to digest and break down, helping you feel fuller for longer,” explains Scoular. “And, when choosing snacks, think about how they’ll help you reach your daily targets of two serves of fruit, five serves of vegies and two-and-a-half serves of dairy. That way you aren’t eating empty kilojoules.” Delish snacks that fit the brief include vegie sticks with hummus, low-fat cheese on wholegrain crackers, strawberries dipped in natural yoghurt, 1 cup of air-popped popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon, ½ cup of roasted chickpeas, 99% fat-free plain yoghurt with a piece of fruit, or a small handful of raw nuts.
Snack smart tips
There are plenty of ways to ensure you make healthy snack choices when hunger strikes. Try these strategies:
1. Prep it. If you have spare time during the week, use it to whip up a batch of cocoa bliss balls, boil some eggs, or slice vegies such as carrot, capsicum and cucumber and store in airtight containers in the fridge. Pop them on the top shelf so they’re the first thing you see!
2. Portion it out. Get in the habit of portioning out snacks, whether you’re at work or home. “Rather than keeping a large bag of nuts in your drawer at work, portion out 30g into zip-lock bags to help prevent overeating,” suggests Parker. Write the SmartPoints on the bag for easy tracking.
3. Stock up. Stash healthy options in your handbag or desk so you don’t turn to the vending machine. Try mini packs of natural popcorn, wholegrain crackers and nut butter, or instant porridge sachets.
4. Head to the supermarket. Caught out on the go? “The supermarket has your back,” says Scoular. “Fresh fruit and a tub of yoghurt, sliced cheese or a tin of tuna are easily found.” Keep a spoon or fork in your handbag and you’ll be good to go!
5. Stay hydrated. Sometimes thirst registers as hunger, so try to always carry a bottle of water and sip regularly to ensure you’re properly hydrated.
WW members share their snacking tips
“I just reach for a banana. They are magic!” Jenny Currie
“I make apple and cheese ‘sandwiches’ from apple slices and Bega Light cheese (1 SmartPoints per slice). I quarter the cheese and get four sandwiches for 1 SmartPoint!” Carmen Gibson
“Planning is the key. I divide my snacks into individual bags and take some with me when I’m going out. Just in case I’m away longer than I think… Then I always have something on hand and know its SmartPoints.” Ann Leaman
“A small tin of tuna in springwater, chopped cucumber and tomato mixed together with salt and pepper is 0 SmartPoints and so yummy and filling.” Sharon Russell King