We asked a dietitian how make our snack attacks healthier
Tips on how to make them better overall, and some tasty options to choose at the store too
Working from home, not so far from the fridge or the snack cupboard, is just one of the many reasons for frequent snack attacks. We wanted some advice on how to stock up on snacks that are healthy and nutritious, so we spoke to registered dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition, Christy Brissette, for her insight into what to look for when the mood to snack strikes.
In general, she suggests picking a snack that contains a combination of protein, carbohydrates, fibre and healthy fats because they'll help you "feel satisfied and energized" and "keep blood sugar levels steady." Her rule of thumb is to opt for snacks that "contain at least 3 grams of fibre and 7 grams of protein." She says it's best if snacks "feature some fresh vegetables or fruit along with a source of protein and healthy fat". Some of her suggestions include natural peanut butter (without added sugar or other oils), a handful of raw unsalted almonds, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or bean dip.
Brissette told us that keeping snacks within a 150 to 350 calorie-range is generally ideal but that number depends on many factors such as age, activity level, daily calorie intake goals, etc. "For the average person," she says, "250 calories or so is a good ballpark for a nutritious snack."
And while counting calories can be a helpful weight management strategy for some, Brissette mentioned that it's not actually the first thing she suggests her clients clock. "The problem with focusing only on calories is it can lead people to ignore the quality of their eating habits. For example, someone who is counting calories might decide to have an artificially sweetened ice cream bar that's 80 calories instead of having an apple that's 100 calories," she explained. Instead, she says to opt for foods you enjoy, and pick them based on the nutrients they offer. "For your overall health," she suggests, "choosing 'real food', a.k.a. whole, minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural state as possible is your best bet."
Then, if counting calories is part of your personal strategy, she says "it can be helpful to look up how many calories are in a serving size of a food so you can decide how much to have based on your calorie goals". Filling up on "plenty of non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, etc., to load up on fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals" is a great way to go. And when it comes to snacking on the higher-cal options such as nuts and seeds, Brissette recommends you "keep the portion size to a couple of tablespoons or a small handful to keep calories in check."
If you're a fan of packaged snacks, Brissette suggests looking for options that are "made with whole food ingredients you can recognize and ones that are low in added sugars". The ingredient list is your friend! It lists the food's contents from largest amount to smallest. She pointed out that it's best to select snacks that "have white or refined flours, sugars, syrups or anything ending in '-ose' further down the list (if there at all)." She also reminded us to check the nutrition facts table too. It will help you determine the serving size, fibre, protein, and calorie content and allow you to compare with other snacks as you shop.
As for highly processed snack products that are tasty but lacking in nutrients? "I would move away from calling those foods snacks and call them 'once in a while' foods," she says.
Taking Brissette's 250-calorie per serving ballpark into account, we rounded up some of the healthier (though processed) packaged snacks that we've been reaching for these days. You'll note that they don't all quite meet her recommendation of "at least 3 grams of fibre and 7 grams of protein" (and some are processed), which is where creative pairings with fruit, veggies and some of the whole foods she recommended can come in.
Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps, $2.37, Walmart
The Good Bean Crunchy Chickpeas Chili Lime, $8.99, The Bay
Kewaza Healthy Bites Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, $2.79, Well.ca
Hungry Buddha Heavenly Honey Coconut Chips, $2.57, Walmart
Cello Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps, $4.99, Natura Market
From The Ground Up Butternut Squash Pretzels, $5.99, Natura Market
Kashi Seven Grain Chocolate Chip Chia with Quinoa Bars, $3.27, Walmart
SmartSweets Fruity Gummy Bears Pouch, $3.99, Well.ca
Blue Menu Key Lime Kefir Smoothie Bars, $5.99, Loblaws
Wonderful No Shells Pistachios Roasted & Salted, $7.88, Walmart
Alter Eco Deep Dark Sea Salt Chocolate, $4.49, Noah's
T&T Korean Roasted Seaweed Laver, $1.99, Loblaws
McSweeney's Turkey Jerkey, $6.97, Supplement Source
T&T Ready-to-Eat Organic Chestnuts, $1.49, Loblaws
SkinnyPop Original Popcorn, $3.77, Walmart
Greek Yogurt, Plain 5%, $3.49, Loblaws