Mango chunks, peanut butter on apple slices, a chocolate Hob Nob and even a regular skinny cappuccino all count as snacks. Snacks are, by definition, ‘small’ amounts of food consumed between meals and recently they’ve been given a pretty fearsome reputation. A simple Google search on ‘snacking’ will bring up an array of articles about good snacks; healthy snacks for weight loss, and even snacks for productivity . The problem, however, is we seem to have forgotten what snacks are: FOOD. And, what does every human being need? FOOD.
You may think there is a simple answer of yes or no to this question, however the problem is we’ve been asking the wrong question for too long. There are no such things as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods; in fact, you could even say there are no such things as healthy and unhealthy foods. Like any other meal, beverage or supplement, a snack may or may not have a place in your diet, depending on your fitness and nutrition goals. The food we consume has everything to do with our lifestyle and choices: snacks are an equal part of those decisions.
For example, if you are following a calorie-controlled diet and consume between 3-5 meals a day, two of these may be a piece of fruit, a protein bar, nuts or even a chocolate bar: all classed as snacks. The end goal is the number of calories you are consuming – if the snack fits into your calorie count, there’s no need to have a sleepless night, you can still achieve your goals. If you are looking to reduce the level of sugar in your diet for medical reasons and are also following a calorie controlled diet, then perhaps a chocolate bar might not be the best choice for your health and goals. However, nuts, carrot sticks and a bit of piri-piri hummus may become your go to!
When integrating snacks into your day-to-day lifestyles, do not feel guilty or ask the question, ‘are they good for me?’. Instead, remember the following about snacks:
Snacks can be consumed to curb your hunger and increase your energy levels throughout the day; they are food, which means they are energy and can form part of a balanced diet. If you need or fancy it, have it for your own nutritional and mental well-being.
Snacks are small quantities of food to have in between meals, NOT as meal replacements. Remember, a bag of nuts, cucumber sticks, a protein bar or a pack of rice cakes do not contain the full amount of wholesome nutrients or energy you need to lead a balanced lifestyle.
As much as there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, some snacks are more nutritious than others as they provide an adequate balance of complex carbs, proteins and fats. An apple with a slither of peanut butter, or a small fruit salad with a bit of Greek yoghurt, is likely to leave you more energised and satiated than 5 digestive biscuits. Both have their place in everyday life, but let’s remember the end goal: a sustainable, balanced and healthy lifestyle.
What snacks should I consume to sustain a balanced lifestyle?
The golden question! Again, it completely depends on your goals, however on average aim for a snack being around 150-200 calories, to support your nutritious and wholesome meals.
Don’t deprive yourself of the odd chocolate bar every now and again; a square of Lindt’s dark chocolate finishes off my day in the most perfect way on a daily basis! Try some of the following to keep you well, balanced and satisfied:
7-10 carrot or cucumber sticks with a dollop of hummus
A handful of mixed nuts or dried fruit
Any piece of fruit, especially bananas, apples and berries!
Peanut butter and a piece of wholemeal toast, Ryvita or even apples!
Popcorn (the dream)
A square (or two!) of 70%+ dark chocolate
Greek yoghurt with honey
Remember, there is a tonne of information out there, some confusing, some contradictory and some really, really useful. Just remember, consume snacks in moderation, be mindful of your nutrient intake and don’t see snacks as guilt-ridden food – it nourishes your body!
*The information above is guidance only and is in line with the NHS Eatwell guide. Please seek medical guidance for personalised nutritional information.