By Live Dr - Wed Sep 03, 9:46 am
Written by Nigel Denby, dietician
Feeling peckish? Don’t reach for the nearest bag of crisps or chocolate bar. Instead, take our dietician’s advice and grab a snack that is going to make you feel good, as well as boost your energy levels.
Enjoy a nutty treat
Nuts are packed full of protein and fibre, and are a rich source of vitamins E, B6 and folic acid. But they are also high in calories, so a small handful is enough to curb hunger pangs.
- Pick non-salted varieties to help you stay within the recommended maximum of six grams of salt a day.
- Nuts with lower fat levels are pistachios, cashews and almonds.
- Chestnuts contain the least amount of fat.
- Almonds are the richest in calcium, which helps keep your bones strong.
- A single brazil nut meets your daily requirement for the antioxidant mineral selenium.
Pick low GI
The glycaemic effect of foods looks at how they affect our blood sugar.
The best foods are the ones low on the glycaemic index (GI). This is because they provide a slow release energy into our bloodstream rather than a quick sugar rush that soon dips, leaving us feeling hungry again.
Many experts believe choosing low GI foods at meals and snacks is an important addition to a healthy diet.
Good low GI snack choices include:
- soft dried apricots
- fresh fruits
- oatcakes or rye crackers with houmous
- fruit bread or malt loaf
- a small piece of cheese with cherry tomatoes.
Choose fruit as a snack to get in your five a day.
- Variety is key, so choose a rainbow of coloured fruits throughout the week to get the best mix of protective antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- Raw vegetable snacks are tasty ways to curb your hunger pangs. Make them into a treat by dipping them in houmous, cottage cheese or even olive oil.
Choose healthier crisps
Crisps are one of the UK’s most popular snacks. Many types of crisps are high in salt, saturated fat and don’t offer much in the way of nutrients.
- Try crisps made from other root vegetables such as beetroot and parsnip, which contain more fibre than traditional crisps.
- If you really can’t live without crisps, eat them less often. Going from one pack a day to a pack a week can save you a massive 56,000 calories and 3.5kg of fat a year.
- Choose reduced fat, baked and low-salt varieties.
- Pick crisps with a salt sachet so you control how much you add.
Dark chocolate is okay
Lots of studies have indicated that dark chocolate has health benefits and may even improve your heart health. This is because cocoa, the main ingredient of dark chocolate, contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Polyphenols can help to reduce the levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol are linked to increased risk of arterial disease.
- Go for dark chocolate with at least 70 per cent cocoa solids and low levels of cocoa butter.
- Everything in moderation: two squares of chocolate a day is plenty.
Ditch the fizzy drinks
A single can of fizzy drink can contain as much as six teaspoons of added sugar – ’empty’ calories that offer very little nutritional value. Fruit juices also contain sugar, but they come with a whole host of vitamins and minerals as well.
Go easy on cereal bars
If you have a sweet tooth and think a cereal bar is a healthy choice, you may need to think again. Some cereal bars are loaded with added sugar, which can appear on the label as glucose, dextrose or glucose syrups.
Look for bars where sugars appear after most of the other ingredients in the list. This will mean that only minimal amounts have been added.
Not all biscuits are equal
If you can’t have a cuppa without a biscuit to dunk, opt for plain wholegrain biscuits like oatcakes and digestives, and try to keep it to just one or two.
Muffins are a treat
American-style cookies and muffins are okay as an occasional treat, but that’s all.
Some muffins contain real fruit, but a whole load of added fat and sugar too. This means they can contain more than 500 calories and a third of your daily fat allowance.
Skinny versions cut the fat and some calories, but they still aren’t a healthy treat. They are likely to contain more sugar or, worse, artificial sweeteners.
‘Low-fat’ can also mean more additives – for example adding artificial flavours to replace the more natural flavours found in fats.
Stick to having the real thing, but only very occasionally. When you do indulge, reduce the decadence and go halves with a friend or partner.
Five snacks to avoid
A snack should never contain more calories than you would eat for dinner.
- Cakes, pastries and buns: delicious, but high in calories, fats and sugars. Many moist, buttery store-bought cakes contain trans fats, which can damage heart health, as well as artificial flavourings, preservatives and dyes.
- Sugary breakfast cereals: very convenient and not just at breakfast time. But some cereals are loaded with added sugar. Opt for healthier versions like Weetabix, Shredded Wheat or muesli with fruit.
- Toffee butter popcorn: toffee, butter, sugar – where’s the popcorn? A single serving can contain over a third of your day’s fat allowance. Stick to plain unsalted or make your own.
- Chips: these may be tasty, but the deep fried versions are high in saturated fat and salt. A portion can contain more than 300 calories. So-called ‘healthier’ oven chips can contain almost as many calories, fat and salt.
- Sausage rolls: chock-full of fat and salt as well as preservatives and flavourings. Many varieties contain more than half your daily allowance of saturated fat and over a quarter of your daily salt intake.