When you’re stuck at home - or stuck between meals - it’s all too easy to reach for the chippies. So here’s a smorgasbord of suggestions for easy, healthier treats that won’t leave you feeling guilty, or hangry.
You know the feeling. You’ve got the munchies, and there’s a bag of chips just sitting there with your name on it, or maybe a chocolate bar that’s been eyeing you up all morning. You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help yourself.
Guilt aside, unhealthy snacking can be a serious problem, both for maintaining a healthy weight and getting the nutrition we need. Those quick fix snacks may satisfy the urge, but little else. In fact, consistent consumption of junks foods can harm your body in the long run, leaving you more vulnerable to disease – something all of us could do without just now.
The trouble is, when our energy levels are low, our cravings tend to go the opposite way, and it can be all too tempting to grab those unhealthy snacks for a quick comfort food fix. (Incidentally, another good reason not to do your supermarket shopping when you’re hungry).
So what’s the answer to a better standard of snack? Well, it doesn’t always have to be as puritanical or unappetising as you might think. There are plenty of healthier snack options out there just yearning to fill the gap in your diet, and your stomach; ones that taste great, don’t take too much preparation and will tide you over until mealtime - so you can power through your day without piling on the kilos.
Here are some of our top picks for healthy eating between meals:
You could definitely call chickpeas a superfood. Just one cup boasts an impressive 50 grams of protein. So pair them up with olive oil and garlic and it’s no wonder you’re onto a winner. Better still, hummus is super easy to dip something healthy into, like the four Cs - carrot sticks, celery capsicum, or some healthy wholegrain crackers. All this, and it tastes great too.
Becoming more and more prominent in our supermarket aisles these days, jerky made from beef or chicken is packed with protein, and highly portable too. It doesn’t have an overpowering smell either. If you do choose to jerk, however, try to pick one that isn’t overloaded with sodium or sugar, as some companies add them to ramp up the flavour.
Unsalted nuts make a great snack to help you feel fuller at any time of day, including peanuts, cashews, almonds - and especially pistachios. The fiddliness of opening them, not to mention the price, might put you off eating too many as well.
And while we’re on the subject of nuts, how about that good old family favourite peanut butter. Two tablespoons equals roughly 7 grams of protein to boost your energy levels. It also goes perfectly on wholegrain toast, or for an even healthier option try dipping with some celery sticks.
Along with hummus (see above), there’s no doubt that the Greeks know what they’re doing when it comes to healthy, nutritious food. A single serving of Greek yoghurt serves up 15 grams of delicious protein to keep you going between meals. Best eaten unsweetened in its natural form, or look out for flavoured versions without too much added fat or sugar.
When it’s air-popped and lightly seasoned, popcorn is a very healthy snack. It has plenty of fibre, is typically low in calories and fairly tasty too, especially with a strategic topping. Our favourite is sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Watch out for the kind of stuff they serve at movie theatres, however, as it’s often smothered in butter or caramel – not so good for you.
Pumpkin seeds are packed with protein and pretty darn tasty, especially for things that are often chucked away. If you fancy spicing things up a little, add a dash or two of chilli powder for that extra zing to wake you up in the afternoon.
Normally reserved as a starter at your favourite Japanese restaurant, there’s absolutely no reason why edamame shouldn’t break into the staple snack category. Again, they’re high in protein, satisfyingly crunchy, and very low in calories. Plus they’re green, so they must be good for you!
Thought processed food was a no-no health-wise? Most of the time you’d be absolutely right. But those string cheese packs that parents put in their kids’ lunch boxes are actually pretty good for you. They’re full of calcium, a good protein hit and the lower-fat ones come in at around just 80 calories.
Tuna is an excellent source of Vitamin B12 which helps to build DNA, form red blood cells and may prevent heart disease.1 So feel free to whack some on your crackers for a healthy pick-up snack. Just remember to go easy on the mayo, if at all.
Scroggin, also known as trail mix, is a healthy alternative to that dreaded chocolate bar, and a decent dose of nuts and fruit that’s easy to dip into without overeating. Again, just be careful what’s in it, as it can also pile on the calories if you don’t get the balance right. Peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and raisins are all good.
Smoothies and protein shakes
A real go-to these days, protein shakes and smoothies are great for filling you up with wholesome nutrition, either between meals or as a meal substitute. What’s the difference between a shake and a smoothie? Protein, essentially. Often smoothie ingredients are limited to fruits and vegetables, whereas protein shakes are typically fortified with some kind of whey or protein powder. But both can be delicious.
Hard boiled eggs
Sometimes eggs get a bad press, but there’s really no reason to shun them as a snack. A solid dose of protein and only 85 calories a pop, hard boiled eggs are easy to make and even easier for eating on the go. Don’t ditch the yolks either – they’re full of a fat-fighting chemical called choline.
What’s good for breakfast can also be good for snacking, as long as you limit your portion size. Indeed, a small serving of porridge includes 6 grams of protein, and it’s sure to tide you over until mealtime – and warm you up too.
If your eyes just lit up there, well done for reading to the end of the article. And no, we’re not joking. Just like regular milk, chocolate milk is a great source of protein – typically around 8 grams per serving – and thus a great little snack or means of recovery after exercise. It will have to be low fat chocolate milk, of course, but go on, you deserved it.
We’re sure you can think of more healthy treats to snack on – these are just some of our favourites. One final word of advice – try not to snack while you’re doing something else like surfing the internet, working at your desk or watching TV. Or you may end up eating more than you bargained for!
*Please be respectful of anyone with a nut allergy.