With snacks starting to be seen as part of the daily diet, it’s easy to forget the nutritional value of these delicious treats.
The best snacks are made from ingredients that are low in calories and saturated fat, and contain no refined sugars or artificial colours or flavours.
But while you can find a range of different snacks in most grocery stores, there’s no right or wrong answer.
For some people, the choices are simply too much for them.
“You want the right amount of carbs and protein, but you don’t want to be too heavy on them,” says Dr Mark McLean, a nutritionist and founder of Eatwell Australia.
“But if you’re not really eating a lot of vegetables, the best snacks will be more like a protein shake, with lots of protein, no added fat.”
For example, the average Australian eats about 1,200 calories of food a day, and a snack is a lot less than that.
“There are a number of different foods that you can choose from, and they’re all very similar, and so it’s really hard to tell which is going to give you the best results,” he says.
“For example, you can eat a salad with a salad, and the salad is going for 300 calories.
But if you don, you’re going to get a lot more protein, and it’s going to be less saturated fat.
So if you have a salad that’s 300 calories and has no added fats, that salad is not going to really give you that much protein, because it’s just going to have a lot fewer carbs.”
For the average consumer, the key is to make sure that the right kind of food is available at the right times, says Dr McLean.
“We recommend that you try different types of snacks depending on what you’re trying to eat.”
The best choices can vary from store to store, but if you do find a snack you like, you’ll want to stick with it for a while.
The most important thing to remember is that the more food you eat, the more calories you’ll burn, says McLean “But you should still try to stay away from high-calorie snacks for a few days to see how it works out for you”.
Dr McLeod says there’s a lot to consider when it comes to how much you eat in a day.
“If you’re overweight, then you want to eat as much as possible, so that’s where your calories come from,” he explains.
“And if you’ve got a normal metabolism, then that’s fine, but we recommend that for people with a normal weight, there is a point where you can go to the gym a little bit more and eat more and then you should eat less.
So you can always make changes.”
If you’re eating too much or not enough: “If your eating habits are changing a lot, then it’s probably not the time to start putting a lot into snacks,” says McLeod.
“Just try to stick to the basic foods you normally eat, and eat as many as you can, and then go from there.”
For more tips on eating well and preventing weight gain, see our article on tips for eating well.
Some people, like former runner Lindsay Higginson, find it helpful to start their day with a quick meal.
“I always try to get my morning out with a meal and then do my workout afterwards, which makes it a lot easier to manage my weight,” she says.
And if you find yourself skipping a meal, try to make the most of it.
“Try to have some snacks, like a fruit smoothie, a chocolate bar, or something like that,” she advises.
“Even if you get up early and don’t eat, try having a snack.
Just eat a little something and go and grab a cup of coffee or something.
That’ll help you stay on track.”
But if it’s a regular meal and you’re already hungry, there are some snacks that can help you manage your hunger better, like chocolate bars.
“It’s definitely good to have at least two chocolate bars in your lunch, because that will give you a bit of a boost,” she explains.
To make it easier, try these simple snacks that you might already have on hand: chocolate chips, fruit bars, and some fruit juices.
“These don’t have to be very sugary, they can just be fruit,” says Higgison.
“Some fruit juices are very tasty, so if you can just have a few of those in your cupboard, that’ll be a huge help.”
Some foods that are particularly healthy include avocado, almonds, coconut, nuts, and fresh fruit.
For more advice on how to make healthy choices for your diet, check out our article.