Author: Jo Travers, Dietician & Author
The purpose of a snack is to keep your blood sugar nice and even and is an opportunity to consume some nutrients. In theory, any food can be a snack food but in practice, there are some traditional favourites that are quick and work well. Snacks, however, can be your best friend or your worst enemy! If you are reaching for a Mars bar or packet of biscuits, then we’re into worst enemy territory. If you use the tips below, the snack can get you through to the next meal and add some valuable nutrition and variety to your diet. It’s great to get a couple of food groups into a snack, as it will keep you going for longer.
Carbohydrate: Stick to slow-release carbohydrates to maintain a good blood sugar level. Avoid sweets and refined carbs as standalone snacks because these will cause blood sugar spikes. Save sugary foods for puddings, straight after a meal where the fibre will moderate the rate of glucose absorption.
Protein: Adding some protein will keep you fuller for longer.
Fruit/veg: Vitamins and minerals are needed for nearly every process in the body and you need to get at least five portions a day, so snacking on fruit and veg is a great way to boost your intake.
• Oatcakes, wholegrain crackers such as rice cakes or granary bread, with peanut butter / cream cheese / houmous / roast beef / salmon / tuna / mackerel
• Fruit (fresh or dried) – with yogurt or cottage cheese
• Vegetables – carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap or mangetout peas, olives, celery and radishes all work well raw, with minimal preparation to dip in soft cheese or hummus
• Nuts and seeds – mixed with fruit or yogurt
• Yogurt (preferably natural) with / seed / oat / fruit toppings
• Popcorn (unsweetened)
When deciding what the right portion size for a snack is, it’s good to take a couple of things into account:
Hunger: If you are really hungry, then a larger snack might be more appropriate.
Time until next meal: If lunch is in half an hour, then having a few grapes might be a better snack than grapes and yogurt.
Context throughout the day: Count your portions throughout the day. For example, you need 4-6 portions of carbs in a day. If you have one portion at breakfast, one at lunch and one at dinner, that’s three portions. Depending on your hunger levels, half a portion at each snack might be appropriate, giving you four portions of carbs in total across the day.