Is snacking bad for you?

By Hannah Buckland, Healthy Hearts Care Planner

Much has changed during lockdown, including people’s eating habits. In particular, research has shown a trend towards an increase in snacking. Snacking has traditionally been viewed as a negative eating habit; however, we want to reframe it as an opportunity to add to your health and nutrition. In this article, we address the idea that snacking is always bad for you and provide our top tips to put a healthy spin on your snacks.

When we think of snacking, we tend to think of things like crisps, chocolate bars and biscuits – the so-called “unhealthy” snacks. We’re not denying that too many snacks high in saturated fat, salt and sugar can have a negative impact on your health. However, snacking can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, provided you don’t consume too many calories over the day and that, over time, you choose a healthy balance of foods. In fact, snacks can help contribute to your energy and nutrition needs; they give an opportunity to consume more essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. For example, snacking is a great way to help you meet your recommended 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Whilst some studies link snacking with weight gain, others associate it with healthy weight maintenance; making it clear that the snack itself is key to the impact on your health.

It is also important to consider the frequency and size of your snacks. Listening to your hunger cues is key here. It is very common to snack out of boredom or for comfort, so consider whether you are actually hungry before you reach for a snack. Importantly, don’t feel guilty if you do feel hungry! Especially if you’ve been making lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and reducing your portion sizes, it is not uncommon to experience hunger between meals. We’ve been working on some of our top tips for healthy snacking when hunger hits:

  • Opt for snacks lower in saturated fat, salt and sugar. Check the traffic light labels and try to avoid snacks that show any reds.
  • Instead, choose nutrient-rich snacks, such as those containing fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Here are some 100 kcal snack ideas:
    • 3 rye crispbreads with 1 tablespoon of reduced-fat soft cheese
    • 8 tbsp of salsa and carrot sticks
    • 3 tbsp reduced-fat hummus and celery sticks
    • 5 tbsp tzatziki and cucumber sticks
    • 3 cups air-popped plain popcorn
    • 1 thin slice wholemeal toast with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
  • Plan ahead. Have some pre-prepared healthy snacks ready to go – grab something on your way out of the door or make sure you always have something in your bag or pocket for when you’re out and about.
  • Be mindful of portion size – check the label if you’re unsure what constitutes a portion.
  • Try some simple swaps to make your snacks healthier. Swap salted nuts for unsalted nuts, white bread or pittas for wholemeal varieties, or low-fat frozen yoghurt for ice cream.

So, is snacking bad for you? Hopefully we’ve proven to you that it doesn’t have to be! In fact, it’s a fantastic opportunity to add to your health and nutrition. As always, it’s all about balance; honouring your hunger whilst at the same time nourishing your body. If you’d like more diet and nutrition advice, why not join the Healthy Hearts service? We provide 1-1 guidance and online courses to help you achieve a heart healthy lifestyle. Call 020 3434 2500 or visit https://bit.ly/HHapply to join.

 

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