Make your snacks work harder for you by eating the right stuff. Here’s how.
Snacking between meals is often considered sinful or unhealthy and we can’t blame you for thinking that. There are a lot of salt- and sugar-laden snacks on shelves, but there are plenty of healthier options in the stack too. Once you’ve figured out the principles of healthy snacking, or healthy eating for that matter, a whole world of guilt-free treats will be opened up to you.
With hectic work schedules and lifestyles, having a healthy snack is probably also better than missing meals. For some of us, snacking may even be required to make sure we don’t miss out on nutrients — something that can happen since food in hawker centres and food courts tend to be high in calories but low in nutrients (think chicken rice, wanton mee, mee goreng and the like).’
Even for those who prep their own food, having the recommended two servings each of fruits and vegetables a day may not be enough. The American Gut Project and the Dash Diet by the US-based National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests eating a healthy variety of fruits and vegetables for a balanced gut and to prevent chronic illnesses and nutritional shortfalls. Eating a snack bag of mixed nuts and fruit is a convenient way to get more nourishing ingredients into your diet.
Ready to master the art of healthy snacking? Follow our top tips.
Know how much to eat, and when
It’s a good idea to keep each snack portion to 200 calories or less since it’s not your main meal. You may want to look for small packs as eating from a large bag may induce you to go back for more, shares a report by Penn State University.
You’ll probably feel hungry three to four hours after a meal, so refuelling mid-morning and mid-afternoon is fine, but try to avoid late-night snacks as several studies, like one published in BMC Public Health, have linked post-dinner eating with weight gain.
Choose whole grains
The next time you go prowling for snacks, look for whole-grain options that are full of fibre. Eating more fibre helps with digestion, and keeps the snack in your tummy for longer as your stomach works harder to digest it. Since most of us fall short of the recommended daily intake of 20g of fibre for women (a target that can be hard to hit since a cup of spinach only has 0.29g of fibre), having wholegrain snacks are a good way to meet daily requirements.
Keep hunger at bay with a bowl of wholegrain cereal topped with some milk for a low glycaemic index snack that is high in calcium and protein. Alternatively, go for a slice of wholegrain bread or cracker topped with a dollop of nut butter or a small slice of cheese. If those options don’t appeal to you, don’t forget about popcorn! It’s a wholegrain with more antioxidants than vegetables and fruits.
Go for what you want
No, we don’t mean you should reach for fried foods or fat-laden chips and candy, but since the way something looks, smells and tastes plays a large part in how it affects your satisfaction and mood, go for a healthy snack you find appetising so you won’t be tempted to munch on one snack after another. This could mean savouring a small piece of dark chocolate that you really want instead of crunching on the rice crackers that have been sitting in your desk drawer since forever and feeling dissatisfied for the rest of the afternoon. If you have a choice between two good snacks you like, go for the one that’s better for you.
Snack on leftovers
Many of our leftovers from meals or meal prep make very good snacks. Think extra bits of cut vegetables, a little leftover curry and rice or some pre-boiled eggs. By realising that you don’t have to polish off everything on your plate at one go or throw all the ingredients into the pot, it’ll help you practise more restraint at mealtimes and have wholesome bites on hand throughout the day.
Fill up on protein
Nibble on edamame or canned tuna, enjoy a cup of yogurt, crunch some nuts or chew on a piece of jerky. Just like fibre, the protein in these foods makes you fuller. Unless you need to be on a low-protein diet, plant and animal sources of protein are plentiful which make them convenient, healthy snacks.
Mind the salt
Look for snacks with no added salt or try to keep sodium intake as low as possible. Local guidelines recommend having no more than 2,000mg of sodium a day (about one teaspoon), but sauces, processed food and added salt often push us over the limit, especially since many ingredients like celery, carrots and meat contain natural sodium.
Watch the sugar
We often crave sugary snacks such as cookies and cake when we’re tired because our bodies need a quick boost of energy, but do your best to avoid this sweet trap. Sweetened foods and drinks are high in calories but they will only keep you full for a short time. Once the sugar rush dips, your body will prompt you to go hunting around for more sweet stuff and this cycle is hard to break!
Healthy snacks we love
Slip these munchies into your bag to refuel on the go or between meals.
Nature’s Wonders Hearty Mix ($9)
This pack is a tasty way to hit your daily intake of fruits and nuts. It has lightly baked pecans, cranberries, cashew nuts and goji berries and contains no oil or added salt. In addition to the antioxidant-rich berries, this pack contains pecans which are naturally cholesterol- and sodium-free, and also contain the highest antioxidant content of any tree nut. Available at all major supermarkets and hypermarkets.
Snack Guru Smoked Manuka Honey Beef Jerky ($7.90)
This jerky is made with grass-fed beef from New Zealand, and doesn’t contain refined sugar. Instead, the savoury treat is sweetened with a touch of immunity-boosting manuka honey. Available at www.snackguru.com.sg.
Snack Guru Pan’s Mushroom Jerky ($8.90)
Made without preservatives and artificial ingredients, it has a satisfying meaty texture and is naturally cholesterol-free. Available at www.snackguru.com.sg.
Renew’s Sunrise pack ($7.90)
This pack contains matcha- and honey-coated almonds, macadamia nuts and chocolate drops. There’s nothing in it we don’t love! Available at www.renew.sg.
The Whole Kitchen’s Assorted Pearls ($32 for 12)
Great as a pre- or post-workout snack, the pack contains energy balls in four popular flavours made with nuts and slightly sweetened with fruits for a low-sugar energy boost. Available at www.thewholekitchen.com.sg.
Bakening Pumpkin Muffins ($7 for two)
Free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, these muffins come studded with goji berries and pumpkin seeds on top. The apple cinnamon and banana flavours are popular too, and just slightly sweeter. Available at www.bakening.co.
Bakening’s Seaweed Crunch Cookies ($7.90)
Made without gluten, dairy and and refined sugar, they deliver a satisfying crunch and the goodness of mineral- and calcium-rich nori seaweed. Available at www.bakening.co.
All Kurma’s Springdale Cottage Jumbo Golden Raisins ($3.50)
Raisins are one of the most versatile snacks – you can eat them on their own or add to yogurt, baked goods and granola. Jumbo golden raisins reportedly have the highest vitamin C content and antioxidant and phenolic activity among raisin varieties. Available at www.allkurma.sg. (Learn more about All Kurma’s wholesome snacks here.)
Oatberry’s Very Berry Granola ($16.90)
This yummy blend of rolled oats, mixed berries and coconut baked into crunchy clusters is perfect for breakfast or for little bites throughout the day. Available at www.oatberry.com.
Boxgreen’s Shiitake Mushroom Chips ($3.90)
Shiitake mushrooms are reportedly good for boosting immunity and balancing your blood pressure, and these vacuum-fried chips are a fun way to get your fill. Available at www.boxgreen.co.