Snacking can be an excellent way to meet daily nutrient needs, satisfy hunger and boost energy levels.
Unfortunately, it can also lead to overeating, weight gain, fatigue and chronic health concerns. To avoid these potential dangers and maximize the benefits of snacking it’s important to think about snacking as part of your overall healthy eating strategy.
Healthy snacking means choosing snacks made from nutrient-rich, minimally processed foods; the same foods we base our meals around. These include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts and avoid chips, candies, chocolate bars, soda, packaged baked goods and other processed foods that have low nutritional value and are high in sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates. It’s fun to eat these foods on special occasions, but it’s best to consider them as occasional treats rather than daily snack foods.
On a daily basis, we should be mindful of our snacking and look for nutrient-rich foods that will meet our cravings for something sweet, savoury, smooth, creamy, crispy, crunchy or chocolaty. Here are some ideas to consider followed by some tasty recipes to try.
Veggies and dip
When veggies are cut and ready to munch on, they’re an easy snack for the entire family. Offer them with a healthy, protein-rich dip to ensure long-lasting energy. Some dip ideas include hummus, Greek yogurt herb dip, tzatziki, white bean dip, ricotta cheese dip, etc.
Fruit and cheese or nut butter
Fruit is another easy snacking staple. And, just like veggies, they provide more long-lasting energy when paired with nut butter, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or oatmeal. The chocolate avocado pudding below doubles as a great dip for fruit.
Did you know two cups of popcorn is a serving of whole grain? Of course, the key to keeping it healthy is not to drown it in butter and salt, instead try low-salt seasonings or nutritional yeast flakes to flavour your popcorn.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax, hemp) are super filling and are a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fat and fibre. They’re a nutritious addition or side to other foods (e.g. add flax or hemp to fruit smoothies). But, because they are high in calories, it’s important to watch portion size and stick to a small handful. Try the seedy chocolate energy bites below.
Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of high-quality protein and nutrients. They’re also very filling and go very nicely with whole grain breads and veggies.
Pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, beans, and peas are packed with protein, fibre, antioxidants, B vitamins, and iron. They are also very affordable and super filling. Their new-found popularity means there are tons of new recipes for using beans in dips, smoothies, baking, quesadillas and wraps. The roasted chickpea recipe below is perfect for satisfying any crunchy, salty cravings.
Whole grains and oats
Oats and whole grains provide fibre, nutrients and long-lasting energy. Whole grain crackers, wraps and breads are good when combined with protein sources like tuna, nut butter, bean dip and cheese. Look for bread, crackers or granola bars where the first ingredient is a whole grain and the fibre content is at least two grams per serving for bread and crackers and five grams per serving for granola bars. Ideally, sugar and sodium amounts should be low too.
Home-baked treats are typically smaller and healthier than commercial alternatives. They can be made even healthier by using whole grain flour and oats, reducing sugar, reducing fat and adding nutrient-rich ingredients like flax, wheat germ, bran, hemp hearts, apple sauce, etc.
Water, lemon water or herbal tea
Staying hydrated can go a long way to keeping hunger pangs at bay. Clear, refreshing water without any additives is best. However, if plain water doesn’t cut it, try adding citrus, berries, mint, cucumbers or herbal teas to your water. Soda, fruit beverages, fancy coffees, shakes, alcohol and even 100 per cent fruit juice can add a lot of calories to your day, often with very little nutritional benefit.
Here are some of my family’s favourite healthy snack recipes. All can be found at my website: gettystewart.com.
Avocado Chocolate Pudding or Chocolate Dip
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1/4 c. cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 c. maple syrup or sweetener of choice
- (honey, brown sugar, agave, date syrup, etc.)
- 1 overripe banana, chopped
- 1/3- 1/2 c. water
Cut avocados in half lengthwise, remove pit and scoop out all flesh. Place in food processor or deep bowl if using immersion blender.
Add cocoa powder, vanilla, maple syrup, banana and smallest amount of water.
Purée until smooth adding water as needed to reach desired consistency.
Taste and adjust sweetness as desired.
Transfer into serving bowl or individual ramekins. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.
To store, cover well and refrigerate for up to two days.
Can be used as frozen treats (fudgsicles) as well.
Makes two cups.
- 2 c. cooked, drained chickpeas (540-ml/19-oz. can)
- 1/2 tbsp. canola oil
- 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
Preheat oven to 400 F (204 C).
Drain and rinse chickpeas well to remove as much sodium as possible.
Remove surface moisture by placing peas on clean cloth and rubbing gently. Remove any loose skins.
Toss chickpeas with canola oil to ensure a light, even coat.
Spread chickpeas on a large, rimmed baking sheet being sure not to crowd them.
Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Stir chickpeas, continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning.
To test doneness, remove a chickpea, cool and taste. If it’s soft in the middle, return to oven until crunchy all the way through. Watch carefully, it happens quickly in the last few minutes of baking.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
To store, cool completely then seal in an airtight jar. Store for up to two weeks.
If chickpeas lose their crispiness, bake for 5 minutes at 400 F.