Smarter ways to snack

 Smarter ways to snack

So what's the solution? Snacking, then, is not the problem. The problem is our choice of nibble. "We know how to have a healthy, balanced meal but not a healthy, balanced snack," observes nutritionist Stephanie Moore. Offender No 1 is the common crisp. The most popular snack in the UK – a reported £1.4 billion packets are sold each year – they are high in fat, salt and, all too often, artificial flavourings. Then there's our penchant for the high-fat, high-sugar chocolate bar. Fancy a small bar of Dairy Milk? That'll be 255 calories, 27.8 grams of sugar and 14.6 grams of fat. Even options marketed as healthier alternatives – cereal bars, for instance, or rice cakes – can harbour unhealthy amounts of salt and sugar.

Replace crisps with nuts

The best bet, of course, is not the roasted, salted variety – though these still pack a good nutritional punch – but the natural one (with skins on if possible). Almonds, says Moore, are particularly good, thanks to their high levels of protein and fibre. Other tree nuts – walnuts, pistachios and brazils – are great, too. "Walnuts are especially high in antioxidants, and I love pistachios because they give your hands something to do while you eat them," says Dr Stuart Flanagan, GP and resident doctor on Radio 1. Try to keep a mix handy at home and at work – that way, when your tummy starts rumbling, you won't reach straight for the crisps.


Satisfy your sweet tooth

Everyone likes the occasional treat, but a sweet tooth needn't translate into a full-blown Haribo habit. "Dried fruit is perfect to store in the car or in your handbag," says Dr Flanagan. "It won't go off and it's much healthier than most sweets." Another good option is grapes: "I see a lot of people trying to lose weight sensibly, and quite often the hardest part is the space between meals. I recommend having a few grapes because they're quite low in calories – likewise an apple or a banana would do. Even a few cherry tomatoes work nicely."

Avoid 'diet' foods

Just because something's low-fat – or low-calorie – doesn't mean it's a good choice of snack. All too often "diet" products – from yoghurts to breakfast bars – are packed full of excess sugar and refined carbohydrate, which send your energy levels soaring – and then, inevitably, crashing. Bussell explains: "A lot of people have problems controlling their blood sugar. The solution is to look for things that are low on the glycaemic index, which will allow for a slower release of energy." She recommends having a slice of wholewheat toast with peanut butter or some malted loaf, both of which offer a sustained energy boost. Likewise, Dr Flanagan advises munching on a pack of baby carrots with hummus or even a portion of tuna fish. "You want something that's going to keep you going, without that feeling of deprivation. Tuna's great because the protein fix means that it offers a long-lasting boost."
 
Rethink your drinks

Health isn't just about what you're eating. The liquids you consume are just as important. The worst offenders are the plethora of fizzy sodas – diet or not – available in every canteen, corner shop and supermarket.

"If they're not overloaded with sugar, they're full of artificial sweeteners which are just as bad, if not worse," says Moore, who recommends drinking plain water or herbal tea instead.

If that sounds too dull to countenance, Dr Flanagan suggests popping a couple of slices of cucumber or lemon into your water jug – that way the water picks up a hint of flavour. Low-fat milk, or almond milk are both good options, too, when drunk in addition to water: "Young women tend to be deficient in calcium, so to have a source of it in your diet is definitely a good thing."

As for your daily cuppa, breathe easy. Though both Dr Flanagan and Moore recommend opting for green tea over a regular brew, it's not all bad news for tea and coffee: "In moderation, they're fine," says Dr Flanagan. "Two cups a day is not a problem at all – though you wouldn't want to have too many."


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