Smart Healthy Snacks - Ideas, Tips and Best Food Choices

Snacking, including beverages, now accounts for more than 25% of calorie intake per day. Almost all people eat one or more snacks every day. Snacks have become the equivalent of an extra meal, averaging about 580 calories. People also spend more time eating snacks than they did in the past.

Time spent snacking, sometimes while doing other activities more than doubled from 15 minutes per day in 2006 to nearly 30 minutes in 2008. Although many people don't include beverages such as snacks, smoothies, juices, shakes, as snacks they should be regarded as snacks because they contain high levels of calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat and other nutrients.

Most beverages should be regarded as liquid snacks. Beverages now represent about half the calories consumed through snacking.

Clearly, weight control and dieting strategies must consider snacks and beverages as part of the overall food consumption and number of calories consumed per day.

Snacking can be healthy if people make smart choices about what snacks they eat. Healthy options are available that not only taste fantastic, but are also a great source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, calcium, potassium and many other nutrients.

It is not really a matter of whether to snack or not, but rather how to snack smart and to choose healthy snacks as part of a healthy overall diet.

This article discusses the principles of smart, healthy snacking for a healthy whole food diet.

Smart, healthy snacks are easy to prepare with the right ingredients
Smart, healthy snacks are easy to prepare with the right ingredients | Source
Healthy snacking requires planning and thought to ensure you have the healthy ingredients available.
Healthy snacking requires planning and thought to ensure you have the healthy ingredients available. | Source
See the seven principles for choosing healthy snack ingredients and learn the best ways to combine them into homemade snack foods
See the seven principles for choosing healthy snack ingredients and learn the best ways to combine them into homemade snack foods | Source
Homemade trail mixes can be very healthy, but portion size must be restricted as these foods have high calories.
Homemade trail mixes can be very healthy, but portion size must be restricted as these foods have high calories. | Source

Principles to Use for Choosing Smart Healthy Snack Foods

Below are the seven key principles to use in choosing smart healthy snacks and ingredients:

High Protein Density

Many snacks are rich in sugars and carbohydrates. While they boost energy levels, the benefits are short-lived because the sugar causes a short spike in blood sugar and do not provide a sustained sense of fullness that curbs hunger pangs. However many snacks such as protein bars, wholemeal bread, low-fat yogurt, cheese, skim milk, some whole grain flours such as quinoa and fonio, soy products, wholemeal biscuits, nuts, dried fruits and vegetables are good sources of protein. Eggs, whey and lean meat are almost pure protein. Eating snacks containing protein helps slow down the rate of digestion of the snack helps you feel 'fuller' for longer period of time after eating the snack. The protein in snacks can be a very beneficial part of the overall daily food intake. Eating high protein snacks may mean that you can reduce the calorie intake of one of your other meals. Protein, itself has relatively high calories and so portion control is very important. Many meat proteins tend to be accompanied by lots of fat and this boosts the calories as well.

Fiber Content

Fiber in the diet is not only important for a healthy bowel and digestion it also adds bulk to the snack. It also slows down the digestion, which means the nutrients are released more slowly. This means that a high fiber snack will create a more sustained sense of fullness and delay the return of hunger pangs. The best way to add fiber is by including vegetables and whole grains in the snack. Meat and eggs have virtually no fiber. Bran and other grain extracts have very high fiber.

Low fat, Low sugar

Fat and sugar are the main source of calories in snacks. If you want to eat a diet low in fat and sugar than select snack foods that are low fat and sugar as well. Most commercial snacks are laden with high fat and sugar.

Bulky Foods that have Low Calorie Density

One very useful tip is to add bulky high fiber foods to most snacks. Using celery and carrot sticks and adding vegetables and salads to snacks, tends to dilute the calorie rich components such as nuts and fruits. This is an important part of portion control. If you add a salad to cooked chicken or turkey you will instantly half the calories eaten, because you will tend to eat less chicken. The same applies to nuts and dried fruits which have very high calories.

Portion Control

Portion control is absolutely critical with the high calorie density foods. Nuts, meats, dried fruits, and even fresh fruits, have high levels of calories. Ideally a snack should contain 200 calories or less. For dried fruits and nuts the portions corresponding to 200 calories are very small. For peanuts or cashews, 200 calorie portions are 1.5 oz (50g). For grapes, it is 10oz (300g), for dried apricots it is 2.6oz (75g), for peanut butter it is 1.2 oz (2 tablespoons) for raisins it is 1/2 cup (60 g). So care needed with fruit and especially nuts and dried fruit. It pays to be aware of what volume or weight of each snack food ingredient corresponds with 200 calories.

Choose Whole Vegetables and Salad Ingredients, Rather than Fruit and Nuts

Vegetables make great snacks because they are bulky, they have low calorie density and mostly have very low fat levels. Eating vegetables as snacks means you don't have to pay as much attention to portion size and adding extra bulk to snacks to provide smarter choices.

Homemade Snacks that are Planned and Ready to Go, are Better than Commercial Snacks

Prepare smart, healthy snacks in advance with maximum variety to avoid boredom. Make snacks interesting, just the way you like them. Good snacking needs to become a habit. Have snacks ready to go for when you suddenly get hungry. This may mean taking prepared snacks with you. Otherwise, it is so easy to succumb to the poor quality dumb snack. Reaching for the junk snack can become a habit if the healthy ones are not available. You may need to develop strategies to resist or avoid the temptation to buy dumb snacks.

Foods to Use to Make Quick, Smart, Healthy Snack Ingredients

  • Canned fruit in single-serving containers
  • Carrots
  • Celery sticks
  • Cheese, low fat varieties and styles such as ricotta and cream cheeses
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cooked chicken and turkey, no skin
  • Flavored rice cakes
  • Fruit
  • Grapes (small portions)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Green beans
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn
  • Pretzels (small portions)
  • Protein rich Whole grains
  • Raisins and other dried fruit (small portions)
  • Salmon and tuna (including canned varieties)
  • Snap peas
  • Soy Products
  • Unsalted nuts (very small portions)
  • Whole wheat crackers

Combo-Foods Snack Ideas

► Dip colorful mixes of sliced vegetables, tomatoes and bell peppers in low-fat salad dressing or hummus.

► Healthy dips with low -cal bagels, rice cakes and whole-grain crackers.

► Make your own healthy trail mix with high-fiber, high-protein cereal (such as rolled oats), small amounts of fiber rich dried fruit (such as dates, cranberries, apricots, almonds ), and nuts such as almonds. But watch the portion size as trail mixes have high calories.

► Mix fresh or frozen berries with low-fat Greek yogurt and topped with toasted sliced almonds or a sprinkle of granola.
► Mix peanut butter or almond butter, with honey and use raw apples, celery and carrots as dipping sticks.

► Spread whole-grain crackers with low-fat ricotta cheese or cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes and red pepper strips.

Ratings for Healthy Smart Snacks

A rating has been devised by giving an equal contribution to each of the major nutrients in a formula: protein, fiber, fat and sugar, for 200 calorie servings of a variety of snack foods. The protein and fiber contributions were positive and the fat and sugar were negatives. The table below shows the top 30 snack foods ranked using the rating index, with the higher scoring one set at 100%.

200 Calorie, Smart Healthy Snacks ranked for Healthy Nutrients (protein and fiber, positive; fat and sugar, negative)

Food
Serving Size, Measure
Relative Health Score
Protein (g)
Fiber (g)
Sugar (g)
Fat (g)
canned tuna in spring water
7 oz can
100
45
2.5
0
2.5
fruit strips
four strips
88
35.6
4.4
0
4.4
cooked chicken and crackers
6 oz. chicken, 8 crackers
87
37.1
0
0
2.9
edamame is a protein rich soybean, full of antioxidants and phytochemicals
one cup
83
18
8.5
3.2
1.1
turkey jerky
two ounce
78
36.7
0
16.7
0
raspberries
One pint
76
3.7
24.7
16
2.5
turkey wrap
one flatbread wrap with three slices turkey breast
72
20
4.6
0
4.6
Blueberries and Greek yogurt - low fat and low sugar yoghurt
per serving
71
25
2.7
16.7
0
seasoned tuna
6-oz. serving of Tuna:
71
29.1
5.5
3.6
7.3
english muffin with fruit spread - no butter
one muffin with spread
70
0
16.9
9.2
1.5
bean tostada
1 tostada with 2 tablespoons salsa
67
10
5
1.3
2.5
popcorn
two bags popped
65
6
6
0
3
pretzels and honey mustard
two ounce of pretzels andtwo teaspoon of Honey Mustard
63
6.7
5
0
3.3
deviled eggs
8 filled egg halves
62
6.3
2.1
0
2.1
sweet potato and cinnamon non-fat yoghurt
one medium sweet potato and 2 tablespoons of plain, nonfat yogurt
60
6.3
7.4
15.8
0
fiber bars - high fiber, unprocessed whole grains and low sugar content
one bar
60
5.7
17.1
12.9
5.7
crunchy chick peas
4 oz. serving
59
7.9
10.2
0
7.7
crispbread with cottage cheese and apple
two whole-wheat crispbreads, 60g cottage cheese and 1/2 apple
58
12
6.7
10.7
4
greek yoghurt and honey
6 oz. plain Greek yoghurt and 1 tablespoon honey
57
22.5
0
20
1.3
instant oatmeal (low sugar)
two packet (made with water)
56
6.7
5
6.7
3.3
tortilla chips and salsa
16 baked chips and 1/2 cup salsa
55
5.6
6.7
8.9
3.3
sugar snap peas and grated parmesan
two cup peas and 3 tablespoon grated Parmesan
55
16.5
7.1
9.4
7.1
vegetable sushi rolls
5 pieces
54
5.7
4.3
1.4
5
raw veggies and salad dressing(fat free)
1 cup raw veggies and 2 tablespoon ranch dressing
53
13
0
15.1
1.1
celery and strawberry cream cheese
8 medium stalks of celery; 4 tablespoons flavored cream cheese
52
7.3
7.3
0
8.2
tomato with mozzarella
Slice up a tomato, top with slices of mozzarella, fresh basil
51
5.6
2.2
0
5.6
granola
80g serving
49
0
6.7
8.3
3.7
cherries, whole
two cups
49
2
6.9
22
0
cooked turkey with apple slices
6 turkey slices and one large apple sliced
49
13.6
4.5
21.2
3
canned peaches and sunflower seeds
One serve of peaches and 2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
49
3.5
3.5
15
1.2
toasted corn kernels
two ounce serving
48
3.7
3.1
0
6.2

© 2014 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 1 comment

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 10 months ago from Home Sweet Home

oh yes, mixed fruits with yogurt is the best

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