Top 6 nutritionist-approved healthy snacks
We asked health experts what they turn to when they need a nutritious energy boost between meals
Many of us can’t get through until lunch without elevenses, let alone a cup of tea and a biscuit in the afternoon. According to registered dietitian Helen Bond, snacks account for 25 per cent of the typical UK diet.
“Snacking is often a demonised habit and gets a bad rap,” she says. “However, snacks can be part of a balanced diet, playing a role in satisfying our hunger between meals and, in turn, reducing overeating at mealtimes.”
Need some inspiration to help you get out of a snack rut? We asked food experts to nominate their favourite healthy snacks, that taste as good as they’ll make you feel.
The best healthy snacks
To give you an energy boost: a handful of nuts
Expert: Kerry Torrens, registered nutritionist
Snacking can be healthy if you stick to whole, unprocessed foods and if you’re responding to hunger cues rather than eating out of boredom or stress.
When I get that mid-afternoon slump my go-to is a handful of walnuts (equivalent to the volume of a golf ball).
As well as being super tasty they are one of the most important dietary sources of polyphenols, plant defence chemicals that help protect us from the onslaught of day-to-day life.
To enhance your concentration: avocados & seeds
Expert: Jo Williams, registered nutritionist
The brain is nearly 60 per cent fat, so fatty acids are crucial to how it functions and for concentration and focus.
Snacking does not have to mean a mid-morning biscuit or packet of crisps – small, healthy snacks can help balance blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day.
Instead, opt for avocados, nuts (almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews) and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, hemp, sunflower), which are great brain foods as they are good sources of fatty acids and omega 3.
To help kids last between meals: oatcakes with nut butter & veg sticks
Expert: Charlotte Stirling-Reed, registered nutritionist
Snacks can be a fantastic way of topping up small children’s energy levels, nutrients and fibre in between meals. But think of them as balanced ‘mini’ meals, ideally enjoyed at the table, rather than mindlessly or on-the-go.
No-cook options include oatcakes or crackers with nut butter and some cucumber fingers; mini rolls or sandwiches with a hummus, salmon or cucumber filling; banana slices with yogurt and milled seeds. Trail mix-type snacks or nuts and raisins are nutrient-rich options for older children.
To ease perimenopausal symptoms: falafel & hummus
Expert: Karen Newby, registered nutritionist
During perimenopause women’s blood-sugar balancing mechanisms are affected, so sugar cravings can get worse. It’s important to stay ahead of this rollercoaster with protein and fibre-rich meals, so during a 3pm dip opt for a fresh mint or herbal tea with a piece of fruit and a protein source such as nuts, falafels and hummus; or some nuts and seeds with dark chocolate for an endorphin boost.
To replenish energy when working out: a glass of milk
Expert: Fiona Hunter, registered nutritionist
If you are exercising for more than a couple of hours you need plenty of liquid to prevent dehydration and to consume snacks to help replenish your energy stores and electrolytes. Dried apricots and bananas provide a combination of fast and slow-release sugar and bananas also contain electrolytes including potassium.
I make power balls by blitzing oats, dried apricots and peanut or almond butter in the blender. Post-exercise you need a combination of carbs, fluid and protein to help repair and build muscles – try a fruit smoothie or a glass of milk within 30 minutes of finishing your session.
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To support gut health: banana with natural yogurt
Expert: Helen Bond, registered dietitian
The best way to increase the number and diversity of our gut microbes is to eat a varied, balanced diet that is chock-full of plant-based, fibre-filled foods.
My favourite healthy snack options include a handful of dried dates, raisins or figs; wholegrain crackers with smashed avocado; sliced apples and nut butter; banana and natural live yogurt; crudités with hummus or tomato salsa; toast with baked beans; and a couple of squares of dark chocolate or dark chocolate-coated almonds.