Snacks: How to decide which ones are healthy?

Snacks can be an important part of the diet, especially for anyone who is trying to lose weight. In fact, it can be a downright challenge to choose healthy snacks for yourself. Despite its bad image, snacks are important sources of energy for the middle of the day, between meals, or when you exercise. However, it is important to choose healthy snacks for yourself to derive maximum benefit.

Read on to know how you can decide which snacks are healthy for you:

What makes a snack healthy?

The trick to a healthy snack is to pick a nutritious item that will boost the blood sugar, and also keep it stable until mealtime. To control weight, an ideal snack for women should contain about 150 to 200 calories; for men, the calorie count should be between 200 to 250.

To check whether a snack is healthy or not, the Nutritional Facts Label provided on the label should always be read. This label will give you information about the ingredients and the calories it contains, including the sugars added. Pay attention to the serving size given on the label, because it is very easy to eat more than needed if this label is ignored.

According to Dr.Mujahid Israr, who is a general physician in Lahore

“Healthy snacks should not contain high sugar or corn syrup. Aim for snacks with more whole-grains in them, or low-fat listed ingredients. Drinks can contain a deceptively high sugar content because their contained sugar is often mentioned per 100ml, in a 250ml container.”

Pairing protein with carbohydrate can make for a great snack that can help you feel fuller for longer. Examples can include string cheese and apple, or peanut butter with whole wheat crackers, plain yoghurt with fruit, even carrots and hummus. Needless to say, fruits and vegetables make for great snacks because of their low caloric count and high micronutrient content.

The Glycemic Index (GI) of snacks should also be low. GI means that the foods are digested slowly, and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar, as opposed to a high spike that will cause a sudden rise in blood insulin levels. Foods with low GI can help the body feel energized and satisfied for longer. Many snacks that are ready-made, for instance, cereal bars and crackers, pretzels etc. have a high glycemic index and will eventually lead to premature hunger and overeating. Some examples of foods with low GI include fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, tuna fish, skimmed cheese and yogurt.

Timing of the snack is important

When you snack is also important especially for weight loss and its maintenance. Well-timed snacks, for instance, between lunch and dinner, can help tide you over and also prevent overeating. Carrying your days’ worth of snacks with you to work can help prevent munching on high-fat empty calories like a bag of potato chips or power bars.

Choosing healthy snacks

Now that we have a general idea of what a healthy snack looks like, let’s go about choosing some good options. Take snack time as a way to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Pair them up with dairy products like yoghurt or cheese, or lean protein like peanut butter. Snacks with vegetables and fruits are also easy to make at home and offer plenty of variety. Grapes with cheese, peanut butter and celery, banana sandwich on whole-grain bread, are some of the fruit snacks that are both low calorie and nutrient-dense. Other options can include veggies with hummus, or veggies with plain yoghurt and dill dip. Smoothies with fresh berries, kale and chia seeds also offer a power-packed snack.

Pairing Greek yoghurt and berries make a great and delicious snack, as well. Greek yoghurt has a high content of protein, potassium and calcium.

A key concept is to avoid processed food with lots of sugar and preservatives. They do not have many nutrients in them, and are loaded with salt and sugar. Such snacks are unhealthy for both adults and children alike, and should not be consumed by either.

Wholegrains are a great way to feel full throughout the day, while maintaining the energy and nutrient levels. Whole grains are also rich in fiber, making them a great choice for healthy bowels. Healthy fiber also keeps the total body cholesterol and unhealthy fat in check. A good example can be a sandwich with a slice of whole-grain bread and low-fat protein like fish, peanut butter or other nut butters.

Another good snack option is seeds and nuts. They are both a great source of protein and fiber that also provide the body with heart-healthy fat. Moreover, they contain only 180 calories in 1 ounce and don’t need refrigeration. Therefore, they are the perfect snack for taking on the go. Several studies suggest that taking nuts in moderate amounts can in fact help one lose weight. They are also linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Choose a varied and nutritious menu for yourself and your family to ensure your children grow up to be healthy. You should however be careful about any allergies that you or your family members might have before making drastic changes to your menu. It is better to talk to a nutritionist and get some basic allergy tests. Shifa international hospital laboratory in Islamabad, offers a comprehensive allergy test that can help you in figuring out any allergies that may appear after you start eating differently.