Healthy Snacks

By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai

A snack is a small service of food and generally eaten between meals. Snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed foods, as well as items made from fresh ingredients at home.

For almost anyone trying to watch their weight, choosing healthy snacks can be a challenge.Even though snacking has developed a “bad image,” snacks can be an important part of your diet.

Traditionally, snacks are prepared from ingredients commonly available at home without a great deal of preparation. Often cold cuts, fruits, leftovers, nuts, sandwiches, and sweets are used as snacks.

For many adults and children, the long hours between meals may be difficult. If this is true for you, try having a small, nutritious snack like vegetable sticks or fresh fruit before dinner. This should satisfy your hunger but still leave room for a healthy meal.

Snack foods are typically designed to be portable, quick, and satisfying. Processed snack foods, as one form of convenience food, are designed to be less perishable, more durable, and more portable than prepared foods. They often contain substantial amounts of sweeteners, preservatives, and appealing ingredients such as chocolate, peanuts, and specially-designed flavors (such as flavored potato chips).

Beverages, such as coffee, are not generally considered snacks although they may be consumed along with snack foods. [1][2]

Snacking is a phenomenon that occurs when you are hungry but it is not the mealtime yet and you do not want to eat something filling so that you can have a proper meal on time. This hunger is combated through snacks. Snacks are supposed to be light, reduce the hunger feeling, and yet not leave you full to capacity. Snacks have smaller portions than meals, and are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

In the recent years snacking is being encouraged, but healthy snacks such as dry fruits, cereals, fruits and vegetables are preferred. [3]

Some of the best snack choices are found in the lower three levels of the Food Guide Pyramid. Grain products like wheat crackers, toast, bagels, popcorn, some cereals and muffins make good snacks.

Benefits of Healthy Snacks.

All following benefits come when the right snacks are chosen. A bowl full of deep fried French fries is not going to help you achieve your goal. They will not help you reduce that weight you have always wanted to lose for a long time. The idea is to distribute your calorie intake from 3 meals to 6 meals. When you increase the number of meals, and include low calories healthy and natural food, you will be automatically reducing your calorie intake.

  • Snacks are important for energy and nutrients that you need throughout the day. Adults, as well as children, need snacks.
  • For children who are active and growing, snacks also give them the energy they need to grow and play.
  • Old people should also have small meals throughout the day to retain energy as they might already be facing a decreased appetite issue.
  • Pregnant women are encouraged to have snacks to regulate the required weight gain.
  • Prevents overeating – Snacking helps keep you from getting overly hungry in between meals and then overeating at your next meal. So next time you start to feel hungry a couple hours before lunch or dinner, don’t try to wait until the meal. Instead, eat a small healthy snack to tide you over. Combine a carbohydrate-rich food like whole grains, fruits or vegetables with protein foods like nuts or dairy products for the most filling snacks.
  • Keeps blood sugar levels steady- Healthy snacking helps keep your blood sugar levels even, especially if you eat a consistent amount of carbs at each meal or snack. This is especially helpful for diabetics, but also beneficial for people without diabetes, since large spikes and dips in blood sugar levels may make insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure more likely over time.
  • Provides nutrients- As long as you choose nutritious snacks, snacking will also help you meet your nutrient needs for the day. Although it’s fine to have a less-than-healthy snack every once in a while, most of your snacks should consist of nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and nuts or seeds. If you include snacks in your diet, you can be sure to get many of the vitamins and minerals you need.
  • Snacking is specially recommended for people who routinely do lots of physical work which drains their energy. It is said that snacking helps weight loss, as you will be eating much less at mealtimes because you would have had a snack beforehand. Many diet plans encourage people to eat up to six meals a day to avoid staying hungry and falling prey to carbs which are fattening. [4][5][6]

This study was published by Tanja V.E.Kra; 16, June 2020, they concluded that; Offering low energy dense snacks after a meal can moderate eating in the absence of hunger [ EAH ] and increase children’s intake of healthy foods. Increased access to obesogenic foods in the home may reduce the salience of high energy dense snacks when they become available in other settings. [7]

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

  • The size of the snack should be the right size, a good balance between enough calories to satisfy you, but still not too many to promote unwanted weight gain.
  • Nuts are a healthy snack, but the portion size is small and if you snack straight from the bag, it is very easy to eat too many calories.
  • Pick foods that are low in added fat and sugar and high in fiber and water. This means an apple is a healthier snack than a bag of chips. Avoid snacks that list sugar as one the first few ingredients.
  • Pack in some protein-Some people find adding a food choice that is higher in protein with meals and snacks can help keep their appetite in check. Having protein-rich snacks readily available like roasted almonds, hard-boiled eggs, a glass of milk, or yogurt like the Source with 12g of protein are great ways to keep your body feeling full and satisfied – so you can avoid those impulse snacks that can often be full of calories. Keep protein-rich snacks close by, and you’ll be well on your way to curbing those afternoon cravings.
  • Aim for fruits, vegetables, whole-grain snacks, and low-fat dairy.
  • Fresh fruit is a healthier choice than a fruit-flavoured drink. Foods and drinks that list sugar or corn syrup as one of the first ingredients are not healthy snack choices.
  • Pairing protein and carbohydrate will help the snack to keep you fullest for the longest. Examples include having apple and string cheese, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, carrots and hummus, or plain yogurt and fresh fruit.
  • Put snacks in small plastic containers or bags so they are easy to carry in a pocket or backpack. Putting snacks in containers helps you eat the right size portion. Plan ahead and bring your own snacks to work.
  • Limit “junk-food” snacks like chips, candy, cake, cookies, and ice cream. The best way to keep from eating junk food or other unhealthy snacks is to not have these foods in your house.
  • Store foods like cookies, chips, or ice cream where they are hard to see or reach. Put ice cream at the back of the freezer and chips on a high shelf. Move the healthier foods to the front, at eye level.
  • If your family snacks while watching TV, put a portion of the food in a bowl or on a plate for each person. It is easy to overeat straight from the package.
  • If you are buying pre-packaged snacks, keep in mind that low-fat or low-calorie might not actually be healthy. Same for all-natural and pure packaged food, which might contain large quantities of sugar. The best is to prepare healthy snacks at home.
  • Avoid high calorie supporting stuff like dips and sauces to go with your snack, as they will cancel out the positive effect of a snack. Prepare your snacks ahead of time, and enjoy snacking throughout the day.
  • Don’t snack right before a meal, and only eat a snack if you are truly hungry. Snacking out of boredom or for other emotional reasons isn’t healthy and can lead to overeating and weight gain. [8][9][10]  

Snacks for people who are less active should be 100-200 calories or less. To fuel more active teens and adults, snacks can contain 200 to 300 calories per serving. If you are having a hard time finding healthy snacks that you want to eat, talk to a registered dietitian or your family’s health care provider for ideas that will work for your family.

References:-

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snack
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000338.htm#:~:text=Even%20though%20snacking%20has%20developed,from%20overeating%20at%20meal%20time.
  3. http://www.sufioilandghee.com/news-and-events/importance-of-snacks/
  4. https://www.umass.edu/nibble/infofile/snacking.html
  5. http://www.sufioilandghee.com/news-and-events/importance-of-snacks/
  6. https://welldoing.org/article/importance-healthy-snacking
  7. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ijpo.12659
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000338.htm#:~:text=Even%20though%20snacking%20has%20developed,from%20overeating%20at%20meal%20time.
  9. http://www.sufioilandghee.com/news-and-events/importance-of-snacks/
  10. https://www.lifemadedelicious.ca/articles/a/5-tips-for-healthy-snacking

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