Give Your Snack a Makeover with these 10 Whole Food Snack Ideas

Give your snacks a makeover with these 10 whole food snack ideas

(HealthCastle.com) How much of your total calorie intake comes from snacks?  A study on the dietary intake of Canadians showed that, on average, adults consume about 25% of their calorie intake from snacks.  These proportions ranged, depending on age.  In children, snacks contributed 27% of calories, adults 23%, up to 30% for boys 14-18 years.  Upon further analysis, more than 41% of calories that Canadians get from snacks come from the foods that we should limit.   

While this 2004 study is getting dated, I wonder if we repeated this same study today, how much would our snack habits have changed?  In fact, it might even be worse given the continued proliferation of the snack food category in the grocery store.   Regardless, here is what I think is important to take away: What you eat and snack on makes an important contribution to your overall food intake, so choose your snacks wisely.

Technically, snacks are defined as any food or drink consumed in between meals.  However, when I talk to people, I find that there are many other ways that people think about snacks: foods to eat to pass time, foods to eat for entertainment,  foods that come in a package. 

How do you think about the snacks you eat?  Is it made from whole food? Or food-like products?  Or a combination of the two?  Given the significant contribution that snacks make to our total calorie intake, I would like to rebrand the snacks we eat to be beyond only packaged foods.  I am not saying don’t ever choose these kinds of snacks – but rather, to expand our vision of snacks to include whole foods. 

4 Reasons to Eat a Snack:

  • Snacks can help nourish your body.  Wise snacking can help you get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy and feel energized.
  • Snacks help to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day if you find your energy levels drop between meals. 
  • Snacks can help prevent you from getting overly hungry, a situation which may lead to food cravings.
  • Snacks can help you prepare for physical activity, or recover from activity.

BUT!  Not everyone needs snacks!  Too much snacking can lead to unwanted weight gain.  The key things you need to know are this:

  1. Snack wisely.  Think about the foods and drinks you choose during snacks as contributing to your overall health.  Just like you put gas in your car, when you snack, select premium fuel.  Aim to include 2 kinds of foods: vegetables/fruits, whole grains, protein (milk/alternatives, meat/alternatives).  Given that vegetables and fruits should make a significant contribution to our food intake each day, I encourage people to include vegetable and fruits in their snack food choices, as well as throughout the day.   
  2. Be portion size aware of the foods and beverages you consume.  Snacks can help bridge the eating gap in between meals – but keep the portions in check.  Here is a portion size tool to help you keep your portion sizes in check.
  3. Snack when you are hungry.   Most people need between 1-3 snacks/day, depending on their age, size and overall degree of activity.  Make sure you are getting enough to drink. 

Here are 10 snack ideas to fuel your busy, active days:

  • Veggies + dip.  Try this roasted eggplant dip.  
  • Smoothie.  Here is a recipe for a green vegetable smoothie.  Give this one a try!  I made this as part of a snacking class I offered, and this was named as one of the favourite snacks. 
  • Frozen fruit juice popsicles + Cheese slices or cubes
  • Pears + Cottage cheese + cinnamon
  • Vegetable sticks + salsa + cottage cheese
  • DIY yogurt fruit granola parfait
  • Cherry tomatoes, cubed ham, grapes
  • Fruit salsa and cinnamon pita chips
  • Vegetable rice wraps with dipping sauce
  • Yogurt fruit muesli

Written by Calgary Dietitian Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Dietitian and Director, HealthCastle Calgary.

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