A few days ago I asked the people on my Facebook page to come up with some questions for me that I could neatly package up into blog posts over the coming weeks and months. As a Personal Trainer that is looking to give you some great advice it's important to me that I keep this relevant and provide information that you really want so please please please keep the questions coming in! You can either drop me a comment on FB or send me an email here.
Anyway, a few times in recent weeks both on the facebook page and during personal training sessions, I've been asked by people to suggest some 'healthy' snack food they could have either between meal times or that they would be 'OK' eating at a party or the like.
The ease at which some foods are available makes the 'right' choices more and more difficult for us and the conflicting nutrition information available makes those choices even tougher as we blindly follow one bit of advice to the next without ever been 100% whether we are doing the right thing. Frankly, when someone says to you that Mars Bars are healthy because they have vegetable oil in, you know that we're all in a little bit of trouble. But I digress.....
What does constitute a healthy snack then? Well there's a few things but let's concentrate on the super important:
1) It should be nutritient dense - i.e. it has loads of vitamins, minerals, fiber, potentially protein as well
2) Relatively low in calories - if it's a snack then you just need a little boost of energy to get you going between your meals
3) It shouldn't include any transfats
4) It should be low in sugar
Sorry guys and gals but this pretty much rules out crisps, biscuits, cakes - there's a time and place for all of those foods for sure but not every day and certainly not every snack. Those types of convenience foods are nutrient empty and calorie dense, you'll eat a couple of biscuits but you're not giving your body will anything that will help it function at it's optimum level. Adversely though it will crave even more of the same thing! That's why it's so bloody difficult to only have one biscuit! Before you know it you're half way through a packet of chocolate hobnobs and you've added another 500kcals to your daily intake. Crazy.
Wherever possible make sure you're eating fresh foods and you can't go far wrong. So with that in mind I've come up with a list of 7 'snacks' that are easy to get hold of and should help you avoid dipping your hand into the biscuit tin!!
So many tasty options here that are packed full of vitamins, minerals, protein and good fats that it's difficult to narrow down but here's a few I'd recommend munching on:
Almonds: High in Vit E for healthy skin; Calcium rich for strong bones; High in Protein; also linked to lowering cholesterol. One ounce of almonds is equivalent to around 130kcals.
Cashews: A great source of protein, zinc, iron, and magnesium (important for memory recall, regulating growth & development, digestion and DNA synthesis). Also includes a stack of B vitamins that are absolutely essential for the metabolism of protein, fat & carbohydrates
Walnuts: Massively rich in Omega 3 fats (the really good healthy kind), 30gs of walnuts is 196 calories & gives you a whacking 113% daily recommended intake of Omega 3 which is great for heart health.
Just 110kcals per banana (on average) and no fat, sodium or cholesterol to speak of make this an easy choice. They're also nutrient dense so you'll get a hit of Vit A, B Vitamins, Vit C, Potassium, Magnesium and Iron (amongst a host of other minerals) that'll get your body functioning on the highest level.
3) Edamame Beans
100g comes in at just 122 calories and with that you'll get 11% of your Protein needs for the day! With some fat, but mostly coming from the 'good' kinds - poly and monounsaturated - you have nothing to fear from these little guys.
4) Home-popped Popcorn
The key here - don't get the cinema, microwave or pre-packed versions and you'll do fine. Heat alone should be enough to 'pop' the corn so you shouldn't need to use oil. Add some salt (not to much!) and you've got a delicious healthy snack ready to go in minutes.
5) Veggies with Hummus
Use a range of veggies to dip in that hummus to sneak some added vitamins & minerals into you during the day. I use cucumber, celery, peppers, carrots, mushrooms - basically anything I can get my hands on - and pick up a good quality hummus from the supermarket.
6) Pumpkin Seeds
These are so bloody tasty either on their own or as part of a salad, if I'm not careful I can really overeat them and at 449kcals per 100g it can be done easily! That said, a little like the Walnuts I mentioned earlier, these are stacked full of Omega 3 Fats that are perfect for a healthy heart and have a tonne of fiber so start adding them to your diet today!
7) Home-made Protein Slice
Ok, so a disclaimer needed here..... this one is from my 28 Day Meal Plan..... but it really is a great option for you with a good hit of protein (11g), relatively low calorie (one slice is 169kcals), is super easy to make and it's damn tasty too! This recipe is enough for 9 portions.
220g Banana, mashed
50g Nut Butter (you can use any variety, just make it has no added sugar!)
2 medium sized eggs (free range preferable)
1 egg white
40g porridge oats
20g ground almonds
30g flaxseed (can be whole or ground)
50g chocolate flavoured protein powder (whey protein is probably your best bet)
20g dark chocolate, chopped finely
Preheat oven to 190 c / 375 f
Line baking tray with parchment paper.
Mash bananas removing all lumps.
Add all of the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture onto the tray & flatten with a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the centre is firm. Allow to cool on a rack, then chop into 9 slices.
Once cooled, these can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
It can also be frozen & defrosted if you want to store for longer!
I really hope that this gives you some good ideas for what you can snack on in the future so please take this information with you, focus on your goals and remember why it's important to make 'good' choices when it comes to snacking!