Healthy snack ideas
Clients, and their support team, may have heard conflicting information about snacking. Some people believe you should eat every few hours, while others believe you should avoid snacks altogether (especially snacks in the evening if you are trying to lose weight). Who’s right?
There aren’t any ‘one-size-fits-all’ rules when it comes to food and eating. Some people prefer to ‘graze’ while others prefer three meals per day. The same person may require snacks on some days and not others, depending on their activity levels.
The key is to introduce snacks based on need and not eat them purely out of habit.
Situations when a snack may be indicated:
- If someone is physically hungry. By physical hunger I’m referring to a bodily sensation that suggests that more food is required – a growling or empty stomach, a headache, etc. This is very different to ‘wanting to eat,’ which is generally the brain or mouth wanting a distraction, craving a particular flavour or texture or looking for something to occupy the time. ‘Wanting to eat’ generally comes on suddenly, focuses on one particular food and has nothing to do with the body’s need for fuel. Distinguishing between physical hunger and ‘wanting to eat’ becomes tricky in clients who have lost their hunger and fullness cues due to a brain injury or spinal cord injury. In these situations, we need to monitor the client’s weight to see if their body requires an increase or decrease to their calorie consumption.
- If someone is trying to gain weight. Gaining weight requires a person to eat more calories. Eating ‘little and often’ is a strategy many find helpful when it comes to increasing food intake, especially if they get full easily or become overwhelmed at the sight of large meals.
- In certain situations, if someone is trying to lose weight. Getting ravenously hungry before a meal is counterproductive and can cause people to crave starchy and sweet foods and eat more than what their body needs at meal times. If this is happening regularly, then ‘investing’ in a snack between meals may help reduce their overall calorie intake.
Top 11 healthy snack ideas:
A healthy snack is defined as something which belongs to at least 1-2 of the food groups (eg. vegetables and fruit, starchy carbohydrates, dairy and alternatives or meat and other proteins). Where most people go off track is eating snacks when their body isn’t physically hungry and/or regularly choosing snacks which offer very little nutritional value, such as chocolate, crisps, biscuits or fizzy drinks. Since most people’s eating habits tend to be low in vegetables, fruit, dairy products and protein-rich foods, these are the best go-to options when it comes to snack time. A source of protein can also help keep someone full for longer.
- Hummus – this versatile snack food is great when paired with raw vegetables, wholegrain/seeded crackers, falafel balls or whole wheat pita bread. Individual snack pots of hummus can help with portion control if required.
- Hard boiled eggs with spinach, cherry tomatoes or other vegetables.
- High protein (low sugar) yogurt (such as Skyr, Arla or Greek yogurt) and berries or other fruit.
- Homemade smoothie (made with yogurt and milk to keep the body full for longer).
- Protein balls (made with dates, nuts and containing at least 5 grams of protein), protein bars or homemade granola bars with nuts and peanut butter.
- Fruit alone or paired with a high protein, low sugar yogurt or accompanied by about 15 nuts (or a Whitworth’s nut ‘shot’). Apple slices dipped in smooth peanut butter is also nice.
- Milk or milky drinks such as low sugar Horlicks, Ovaltine or hot chocolate.
- Oats – hot or cold. Oats are nourishing at any time of day and are not just for breakfast. A sachet of microwavable porridge, some bircher’s yogurt and/or overnight oats can be enjoyed at any time of day. Keep portions to a maximum of 30 grams of dry oats if trying to lose weight.
- Pure fruit or vegetable juices (or mix pure orange juice with fizzy water for a refreshing snack). Keep portions to around 200mL or no more than the equivalent of two pieces of fruit, unless someone is trying to gain weight.
- Seeded or Ryvita crackers or oatcakes topped with hummus, low fat cheese, low fat cottage cheese, flavoured tuna or peanut butter. Keep portions to around 1-3 crackers or oatcakes (or buy them in individual portion packs) to prevent overeating.
- Flavoured, roasted chickpeas. These are a great alternative to crisps and offer a lot more protein and fibre.
What about people with diabetes?
People with diabetes generally need to limit the amount of carbohydrate between meals unless they are taking insulin at that time. Low carbohydrate snack options include: high protein yogurt, hard boiled eggs, one piece of fruit dipped in peanut butter, hummus & vegetables or 1-2 Ryvita crackers or oat cakes topped with cottage cheese or flavoured tuna.
What about people on a texture-modified diet?
For clients who need a soft or pureed diet, the best options are generally nourishing fluids which can be thickened as required – such as milky drinks, smoothies, yogurt, pureed fruit, fruit or vegetable juices, banana ‘ice cream,‘ custard and/or homemade soup.
Snacks can be a quick, easy, nutritious and delicious part of a healthy eating plan. The key is to think a bit creatively about what you choose and to be conscious of why you are eating them.
If you liked this article, you may also be interested in our other article on Top 10 Healthier Convenience Foods.
For more information or to refer a client for a dietetic assessment, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07787 603863.
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