Let’s be honest, we all love snacking between meals. But 3 p.m. chocolate bars or a bag of chips while watching TV aren’t our best options.
So what should you reach for when you’re hungry at work, lounging around at home or running errands in your car?
“Research suggests people who snack between meals are less likely to be overweight or obese,” according to Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition.
The trouble is we tend to choose snacks we think are healthy but are high in calories and sugar, such as dried fruit or pretzels. We also have portion distortion, overloading on what should be a snack-sized portion.
The perfect snack should be about 200 calories or fewer, with a combination of protein, fibre and healthy fats, she said.
Be prepared too, Andrea D’Ambrosio, a registered dietitian at Dietetic Directions in Kitchener, Ont., said. The only way to be certain you’ll be making good choices when you’re hungry is to have a healthy snack on hand.
“Try packing them the night before. You may also want to have ’emergency snacks’ packed in your car or office to guard against grabbing less nutritious alternatives,” she said.
Global News tapped a handful of registered dietitians for their go-to healthy snack ideas.
Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans – nuts are packed with protein, fibre and essential fats making them a great option if you’re peckish, according to Andrea Miller, a Toronto-based dietitian.
“They are portable, do not require refrigeration and they are filling,” she said.
How much should you be eating? A golf ball-sized amount, which is about 30 grams, of unsalted nuts is a healthy portion. This is about 15 nuts, enough to cover the palm of your hand.
The World Health Organization named 2016 the International Year of Pulses. They’re a great source of fibre, protein and iron, and they’re cheap to buy and versatile to work with.
When roasted, chickpeas turn into crunchy snacks that are healthy substitutes for a bag of chips.
D’Ambrosio makes a savoury version with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, while Nicole Osinga, a Courtice, Ont.-based registered dietitian, makes a sweet version with maple syrup, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Brissette makes hers with coconut-lime flavours.
Get the recipes here.
Homemade trail mix
Miller makes her own trail mix using whole grains, unsweetened cereal, mixed nuts, a bit of dried fruit, seeds, pretzels and some chocolate chips.
It’s a snack that’s high in fibre and protein but also adds sweetness and texture from the mix of ingredients.
“This can be stored in a large container then portioned out for afternoon snacks. It’s portable and easy to eat at our desk,” Miller said.
You can personalize the trail mix, too. Make a nut-free version, for example, so your kids can take it to school.
Krista Leck Merner, a Halifax-based registered dietitian at Bent Fork Nutrition, builds her snacks around fibre and protein. That way she and her kids feel full after grazing on their snacks while on the go.
Energy bites, bite-sized balls often made with protein powder, chia seeds, flaxseed, chopped nuts, nut butter and honey, are gaining traction because they’re nutrition powerhouses, tasty and easy to eat.
She makes peanut butter and flax snack balls with honey, oatmeal, shredded coconut and chocolate chips, but you can also add cranberries or chopped dried fruit.
“I make this batch of snack balls weekly. My kids love them and they are packed full of fibre, protein and healthy fats. A few chocolate chips never hurt to sweeten the deal,” she said.
Miller makes hers with dates and raisins.
Get the full recipes here.
Susan MacFarlane, an Ottawa-based registered dietitian, isn’t talking about butter-coated, super salty movie theatre popcorn or its microwaved sibling. MacFarlane makes her popcorn on the stove. Air-popped popcorn is also a healthy option.
“Popcorn is one of my favourite snacks as it is low in calories, high in fibre and provides a satisfying crunch,” she said.
Follow her recipe here.
Instant unsweetened oatmeal
Keep a box of instant oatmeal at your desk and make it with milk or hot water. Add cinnamon and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, too. Peanut butter or nuts also make great toppings, Miller said.
Oatmeal is high in soluble fibre, which is great for managing cholesterol levels. It’ll also fill you up for longer, too.
Raw peanut butter cookies
A handful of the experts pointed to nut butter as a tasty choice for snack time. Miller pairs peanut or almond butter with apples to get fibre, protein and heart-healthy fats. She suggests keeping a jar of peanut butter at your desk and packing an apple daily for a no-fuss snack.
MacFarlane makes no-bake peanut butter cookies with almonds, peanut butter, dates and vanilla extract.
“These cookies are a great option before or after a workout, when hunger hits in the late afternoon, or when you are craving a touch of sweetness,” MacFarlane said.
Get the full recipe here.
If you have a fridge at work, stock it with Greek yogurt for whenever your hunger pangs set in, the experts said.
“Greek yogurt is much higher in protein and may satisfy hunger better and be more sustainable. It’s a great source of calcium as well,” Miller said.
If you already have nuts stowed away at your desk, they can be used as a topping along with fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon, she said.