Stuck for Snacks?
As a nutritional speaker, I frequently get asked for healthy snacking ideas, so I thought I would put a few suggestions together. There are loads of options for snacks which are not energy dense, which are rich in nutrients and that taste delicious. I hope these nutritious snacks will get your taste buds flowing.
- The go-to snack in our house is hummus, served with a number of dippers such as sliced, toasted pitta bread, bread sticks, cheese biscuits, sugar snap peas or salad sticks (e.g. carrot, pepper and cucumber).
- Salsa (you can buy it mild) or guacamole with any of the dippers above.
- Mangetout and sugar snap peas are not messy, really filling, require no prep whatsoever and taste delicious on their own. A bag can be shared by several children in the back of the car. What’s not to love?
- Rice cakes with cream cheese, marmite or peanut butter.
- Nuts (preferably non-salted). I like to toast almonds with skin on in the oven, with a little olive oil and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.
- Berries are convenient, not a huge hit on your blood sugar and don’t require any preparation.
- Apple and cheddar slices.
- Feta cheese and olives.
- Plain popcorn always feels like a treat!
- Oatcakes and cheese.
- Fresh anchovies eaten with a cocktail stick (my third daughter’s favourite)!
- Eggy bread: To make, beat an egg with a splash of milk, dip in wholemeal bread soldiers and fry them in a little veg oil, it only takes about 5 mins. This works with rye bread too.
- Edamame beans: Buy these frozen in their pods (Tesco sell them), steam briefly in the microwave, then pan fry with a little olive oil, sea salt and chill flakes. Then everyone can suck the beans out of the pods. Fun for all the family!
- Fruit salad. Many of us eat more fruit if it is chopped up for us (I know, it’s a bit lazy!) so when you’ve got the energy, prepare a fruit salad for the fridge and cover in a little orange juice so it doesn’t go brown.
- Hard-boiled eggs cut in half with spinach leaves, again can be made ahead of time.
- Roasted seeds: Toss pumpkin seeds (or whatever seeds you fancy) in a drizzle of olive oil and roast for 10 mins.
- Yoghurt with a sprinkling of berries (can be frozen) or plain nuts.
- Overnight oats don’t need to be for breakfast, they can also be eaten as a snack. My favourite version is oatbran and plain yoghurt mixed together in the proportions 1:2, a handful of frozen berries per person and a small squeeze of vanilla paste. Leave in the fridge overnight and loosen with a little milk when you’re ready for a snack.
- Roasted chickpeas: Place tinned chickpeas on a baking tray in the oven with a little olive oil and paprika and they crunch up to become tasty and filling snacks. You can experiment with your own flavours, I like to add Henderson’s Relish to mine.
- Wholemeal toast with smashed avocado or peanut butter.
- Scandinavian/German rye bread with tinned mackerel, tuna, egg mayo or a slice of cheese. This is entirely the norm for our Danish friends at snack time, and we find Brits can enjoy it too!
- Cherry tomatoes.
- Flapjacks and granola bars which contain nuts rather than dried fruit.
- Falafels: Bite-sized, filling and easy to eat, we dip these in hummus too. Although especially nice warmed up, falafels can be eaten straight from the fridge if time is of the essence.
- If you really are craving a biscuit, try oat and nut cookies that are slightly slower to release their sugar and contain some protein.
It has to be said, there are times when something a bit more substantial than a couple of cucumber sticks is required. For example, there’s a stampede at our house when the school bus drops the teenagers off and they have 15 minutes before ballet/gymnastics/tennis/basketball/football. They quite rightly need the energy, and fast!
Here are some options for more substantial snacks:
- Wraps with chicken and spinach, or tuna mayo and cucumber
- Pasta salad containing veggies
- Rice salad containing veggies
Although at first glance this sounds like a lot of effort, it can be easily achieved. You can cook a little extra pasta or rice for the evening meal, then as you’re tidying the kitchen, chop some peppers, cucumber (or whatever you have in), add a tin of tuna into it, perhaps a little pesto, and leave it in a bowl in the fridge to dive into the next day.
The NHS’s Change4Life programme recommends that children’s snacks should not be energy dense, should be limited to two a day, and as always, portion size is key. The same applies to adults. With the wrong type, too many or too large snacks, individuals are in danger of gaining weight.
High carbohydrate, high protein, low fat snacks, eaten in response to hunger, can help with appetite control, blood sugar control and weight control. Building some protein into your snack choices helps keep you feeling full for longer and helps keep your blood sugar steady.
Heavy snacking even on healthy foods can result in being too full to eat main meals and therefore missing out on valuable nutrients. Did your grandma used to say ‘Don’t ruin your appetite!’ Mine did, and used to offer me half a peeled, chopped apple sitting prettily in a china bowl. I was therefore always more than ready for her signature dish, Lancashire Hotpot, when it arrived on my plate.
Make your calories count by choosing nutrient dense snack options, rather than ‘empty’ calories, although I must stress that I don’t have anything against an occasional chocolate biscuit or bag of salt and vinegar, it’s what you do most of the time that matters.
Photo credit: Juan José Valencia Antía