Contrary to popular belief, snacks can be healthy!! Most of us need snacks to help us get through the day, as we should be having something to eat every 4-5 hours. Snacking regularly can help to boost your metabolism and keep your appetite and concentration levels in check. I know that finding healthy snacks on a ward can be difficult, especially if you are working the late shift, but planning them is key! Snacks can be nutritious if we keep them small and choose foods from the core food groups. Snacks are different to “treat foods” (such as chocolate or ice cream) which should be eaten sparingly.
A “snack” should contain less than 600kJ. Some good examples are:
1 med egg (boiled/poached) – 290kJ – Eggs are high in protein which is the most filling macronutrient. Eggs contain all of the essential amino acids, so make a great low kilojoule substitute for meat. They are also one of the few foods which are a rich source of vitamin D, which is a nutrient which Australian women are notoriously low in. It is also possible to purchase eggs which are fortified with algal DHA omega 3 which is important for brain, heart and eye health.
1 tub diet yoghurt – 340kJ – Another low GI, high protein food, yoghurt makes a nutritious, low kilojoule snack. Yoghurt also contains good bacteria which is important for a healthy digestive system, and is low in lactose for those who are lactose intolerant. It is now also possible to purchase yoghurt which is fortified with algal DHA omega 3 which benefits brain, heart and eye health.
1 slice wholemeal mixed grain bread topped with slices of tomato – 550 kJ – Grainy bread is high in fibre and low GI, so keeps you feeling full. The grainier the better…..just don’t be tempted to add any high kilojoule spreads, as they will quickly increase the kilojoules. Just one tablespoon of margarine provides 605kJ….more than double the number of kilojoules of the bread!
½ cup blueberries – 105kJ – Blueberries are packed full of nutrition! Health benefits include reducing the risk of stroke, cognitive decline, cancer, heart disease, inflammation and blood pressure. They are also very low GI, so keep you feeling full.
2 medium apricots – 120kJ – This low kilojoule snack is renowned for being great for the digestive system. It is high in fibre which helps to reduce constipation.
Vegetable crudités with hommus dip – 500kJ – Most Aussies don’t eat enough veggies, so having veggies for a snack is a good way to consume more in each day. Chop up a variety of low starch vegetables such as mushrooms, snow peas, cucumber, tomatoes and capsicum. A cup of raw veggies only provides approximately 100kJ. You can also use a range of other low fat dips such as salsa, eggplant or tzatziki. Dips are often high in fat. Look for options which have less than 10% fat (the lower the better). Limit dips to 3 tbsp per snack.
250ml skinny latte – 430kJ – Skinny milk is low GI and a good source of calcium, so can be a nutritious snack. Make sure you order skinny milk, and limit your intake to 250ml at a time, as it’s easy to over-consume, then you’ll be having too many kilojoules. Oh, and avoid the sugar!
250ml homemade vegetable soup – 315kJ – Vegetable soup makes a great snack in Winter. It is packed full of nutrition and low in kilojoules. Homemade soups contain a lot less salt than the packaged versions, and freeze well, so you could make up a big pot at the start of Winter, and have a mug each day. Ask us for a recipe if you don’t have one.
A medium apple – 300kJ – this is one of the healthiest and easiest snacks available. All you have to do is grab it on your way out the door. It requires no preparation. A great choice for people on the run.
20 Almonds – 480kJ – nuts are high in fibre, protein and good fats. Because they are high in fat, you do need to be very careful about the portion size that you consume, but the fats are good (mainly monounsaturated) so they are great for your cholesterol levels. Choose unsalted ones if you have high blood pressure.
Planning healthy snacks into your day (or night) is crucial to ensure you won’t miss out on the health and energy benefits. Happy snacking!
Melanie McGrice is one of Australia’s best known dietitians. She is a highly respected author and health presenter on nutrition and dietary issues – and a lover of great food! Join her free nutrition and wellbeing network at www.melaniemcgrice.com.au or like her on Facebook www.facebook.com/MelanieMcGriceDietitian