It is rather ironic that as the number of snack foods available increases, there is a need for many of us to eat much, much less. In fact, it could be argued that the growing number of bars, twists, muffins, wraps, bites and balls - many of which actually come in “snack” sized portions are the very things that have contributed to the growing number of Australians who have a significant weight issue. Long gone are the times of three square meals a day, or even three small meals and snacks. For many of us, food is entering our mouths every single hour.
So, how can you snack smart? First of all, a simple thing to keep in mind when you select a snack is that a snack needs to be thought of as a “mini meal”, and as such, needs to keep you full for at least two hours. So, next time you feel peckish and take a look at a couple of biscuits or a packet of chips, ask the question; “Will this keep me full for a decent amount of time?” If the answer is no, there are better choices to be made.
Generally speaking, a nutritious and filling snack food option will contain a mix of slowly digested, or low glycaemic index carbohydrates for energy, as well as protein for fullness. Aiming for this combination of food groups not only ticks a number of boxes nutritionally but it also automatically eliminates a number of processed snack food options such as rice crackers and snacks, muffins, biscuits, cakes, pastries and chips which tend to be high in rapidly digested carbohydrates while offering little nutritionally.
Great snack food options for busy people include reduced fat cheese and wholegrain crackers, thick yoghurts with fruit, skim milk based drinks, nut and protein based snack bars and protein drinks. Packaged options including nut based snack bars are easily kept in cars, briefcases and hand bags to ensure that you are never caught out without something decent to munch on and can avoid the high fat snack food options traditionally found at coffee shops, airports and in hotels.
If you like to check the nutrition labels of the foods you are purchasing, ideally a snack will contain <1000kJ per serve and between 20-30g of total carbohydrates; at least 5-10g of protein and contain <3g saturated fat per 100g. Remember that although nuts and the products that contain them appear very high in fat, much of the fat is unsaturated. Unsaturated fat, when consumed in small quantities is known to have a number of health benefits and hence nuts and nut based snacks are still good choices, as long as they are consumed in controlled portions.