Authors: Registered Dietitians
(HealthCastle.com) Snacks are a must in my world! By the time my kids are up in the morning, I’m ready for a second breakfast and before lunch a little munch is a must. If you eat your meals more than five hours apart, snacks are a great way to help you get all the fuel you need to stay healthy and give you energy to power through your busy days.
Snacks can help curb your feeling of hunger between meals and help prevent you from arriving at your next meal ravenously hungry. The challenge for me was make it not only a healthy, but satisfying one. One that doesn’t take away hunger for a good meal a few hours later, or as my mother used to say, doesn’t “spoil your supper”.
I try to pack nutrients in the snacks I eat and it didn’t take me long to realize I needed to make these myself. At first when I saw those 100 calorie packs of crackers and cookies I thought great; how convenient! Finally, something not supersized I could buy and not feel guilty about eating an entire bag. WRONG! But on closer look, many of these snacks are loaded with empty calories and other ingredients. Make your snacks work for you by delivering nutrients like protein, carbohydrate, some fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals or antioxidants.
Snacked Defined: What is a snack?
According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), snacks are food and drink consumed between meals. It is usually a smaller portion of food than a regular meal. The snack food category is big business for the food industry. Snack foods in the marketplace have influenced what we think of as a “snack” – anything that comes from a package. For my kids, their preferred snack is anything that comes from a package that provides entertainment while they munch away.
Snacks contribute a significant amount of our nutrient intake!
The CCHS found that snacks accounted for more calories than breakfast [the most important meal of the day] and about a similar number of calories as lunch. Translation: snacks contribute to a significant amount of our nutrient intake. So let’s rethink our snacks as mini-meals that contribute to your overall nutritional intake. When thought of this way, snack food choices are only limited by your imagination.
What does a healthy snack look like?
Choose foods that will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller longer by combining lean protein, some healthy fat, and nourishing carbohydrates. Foods from at least two of the four food groups [a nourishing grain, a vegetable/fruit, milk & alternatives, meat & alternatives] for each snack are ideal. In general, aim for snacks between 100 and 200 calories each. Choose snacks you enjoy.
Get packing with these DIY 100 Calorie Snack Packs!
Below we list ideas for nutrient-loaded 100 calorie snack packs (and sometimes less). Combine your bags to create a satisfying snack. Plan some snacks and stock your shelves accordingly. What you keep in your cupboards is what you'll snack on!
- Grapes, berries, or melons (1 cup)
- Banana, pear, apple, or orange (1 medium)
- Apple (small) and peanut butter (1 tsp)
- Dried figs (2), prunes or apricots (4-6), raisins or dried cranberry-raisins (2 tbsp)
- Mini carrots, cut up cucumber, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, peppers or other raw vegetables (1-2 cups)
- Vegetables (1 cup) with dip (1 tbsp)
- Mixed green salad (5-6 cups), with regular salad dressing (1 tbsp) [takes lots of lettuce to get close to 100 kcal!!]
- Avocado (one third) with lemon juice
- Whole grain cracker stack (3) topped with hummus (1.5 tbsp), or peanut butter (1.5 tsp), or cheese (25 g shredded)
- Pretzels, low salt (18 g)
- Whole grain cereal corn bran-type squares, or O-type cereal (1/2 cup). Top with raisins (1 tbsp)
- Small homemade muffin such as banana or blueberry oatbran (1)
Protein: Meat and Alternatives:
- Unsalted peanuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, cashews (2 tbsp) or almonds (3 tbsp)
- Peanut or other Nut Butter (1 tbsp)
- Egg, hard boiled (~1 egg)
- Edamame, (no shell, 1/3 cup)
We think milk and alternatives are also a great snack – but slightly challenging to put into a snack bag! 250 ml of skim or 1% milk is ~100 calories; one string cheese has <100 calories. Yogurts are also a great snack, usually between 100-200 calories per serving.
By preparing a series of grab and go snack packs, you’ll be prepared for your next snack attack with foods that help nourish your body and fuel your busy day.
Written by Heidi Piovoso, BSc, RD, Dietitian Associate with HealthCastle Calgary & Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Dietitian and Director, HealthCastle Calgary.