Six tips for healthier snacking

Almost half of Canadians say they’re too busy to eat a balanced diet. And nearly 30 per cent say they’re eating snacks to stay fuelled because there’s not enough time to make proper meals.

Those numbers, reported by the Dietitians of Canada, mean we need to take a good look at those snacks. Though snacking may not be the ideal way to get the energy and nutrients we need, it can provide the same amount of fuel as eating a full meal.

Our day ideally consists of three meals and a snack or two, or six smaller meals, says Lindsey Zwicker, Registered Dietitian.

“When done right, both can be healthy options that provide us with sufficient energy and nutrients,” she says. “It’s all in the choices we make at that time.”

Here are some tips to help you choose healthier snacks this Nutrition Month:

Plan ahead

“Planning ahead is a great way to help ensure you are not heading for the vending machine to get over the 3 p.m. slump,” says Lindsey. “Go for snacks that include protein and fibre to help boost your energy level. For example, apple slices with peanut butter.”

Be aware of portion sizes

When snacking, don’t eat from a box or a bag, she says. Pre-packaged foods often have suggested serving sizes on the label which you can use as a guide to help avoid overeating at snack time. Lindsey suggests limiting your morning to snack to 100 calories and the afternoon snack to 200 calories. Try to stop yourself from going back for a second snack as well.

Listen to your hunger cues

“Sometimes we confuse hunger with appetite,” says Lindsey. “Hunger is the uncomfortable feeling of cramping and growling in your stomach; appetite is more about the want.”

If you find yourself reaching for snacks when you are bored or lonely, find something else to do. Go for a walk or visit a friend.

Skip distracted snacking

Try to avoid eating in front of a television or computer.

Snack on vegetables

If you have a busy day ahead, throw a handful of baby carrots or snap peas in your bag. They're healthy and portable. “Limit snacks that are made up of empty calories like chips, chocolate and many baked goods.” These are foods that can be enjoyed in small portions however, they should be saved for special occasions. 

Involve your family

Get your family involved in meal planning. Ask for their help when getting snacks prepared for the next day. According to Registered Dietitian Mandy Megan, this is an excellent opportunity to teach children about food and healthy habits. “Involving children in grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking is a great way for children to discover new foods, encourage healthy eating habits and learn essential cooking skills,” she says.

If you would like more information on healthy snacking, Lindsey suggests sticking to websites like the Canada Food GuideDietitians of Canada or Eat Right. These are established organizations that will provide you with the most reliable and up-to-date information. Apps like ShopWell and Cookspiration are great resources as well.

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