How to Build the Perfect Snack

What to Look for in Your Between-Meal Bites
Published August 27, 2021

It’s probably pretty safe to say most of us enjoy snacking – but how do you build the perfect snack?

Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist, and author of the bestselling book This is Your Brain on Food, has some insight.

“As a nutritional psychiatrist, I believe that healthy whole food snacks are a great way to maintain energy levels and ensure that you are getting enough brain-boosting nutrients and calories throughout the day,” she says.

“Specific flavours and textures are best left up to personal preference so that individuals enjoy their snacks, but there are optimal macronutrient combinations that can enhance the quality of a snack.”

Naidoo explains that a snack should be smaller in portion than a meal would be and should contain sources of protein and healthy fat for satiety and low-glycemic carbs for energy.

“Avoid snacks that are all simple carbs because they can spike and crash blood sugar levels in a way that results in overall reduced energy or feelings of fatigue,” she adds.

What to Look for in a Snack

Naidoo suggests looking for (or creating) snacks that are minimally processed and that contain whole foods, fibre, healthy fats, and protein.

“This balance will satisfy hunger, keep you full until the next meal and maintain energy levels,” she says. “Choosing whole foods ensures that snacks provide brain-healthy nutrients and reduces the potential for sneaky added sugars or chemicals, which can hinder brain health over time and lead to symptoms of poor mental health, brain fog and fatigue.”

A good equation for building your own snack is low-glycemic fruits or veggies + healthy fat and protein, she says.

“This could look like nut and seed butter on celery sticks, halved cherry tomatoes mixed with a quarter of an avocado, sliced, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds; broccoli roasted in avocado oil dipped in hummus or canned sardines mixed with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped cucumbers; a small Fuji apple or half an apple with a piece of Parmesan cheese.”

You can also try half an apple sliced with a tablespoon of natural almond butter, sprinkled with flax seeds, she says.

“If you’re a fan of crunchy pretzels, a great healthy whole foods snack are my 20-minute oven-roasted spinach crisps. A quarter-cup serving of extra dark raw natural chocolate mixed with almonds or hazelnuts is another snack I enjoy. For me, a piece of a fresh clementine paired with a square of extra dark natural chocolate has so many brain-boosting nutrients, including vitamin C, fibre, cacao flavanols, serotonin, and magnesium.”

Bonus Tip: Get Spicy

“I am always telling people about the untapped power of spices,” says Naidoo. “So don’t forget to spice up your snacks! Herbs and spices are powerful medicinal foods with incredible brain-boosting nutrients that can be incorporated into homemade snacks. A sprinkle of cinnamon on your celery and nut butter snack or a shake of rosemary or turmeric with a pinch of black pepper on your roasted broccoli provide delicious taste and increases your snack’s mood-boosting potential.”