People are skeptical when advised to eat healthy snacks. We see eating as taking in extra calories and not as a way to nourish our bodies.
Snacking between meals and at regular intervals has several benefits to offer. Here, the emphasis is on healthy snacks and not the sugar-filled and deep-fried junk sold as ‘snacks’ in the market.
Health benefits of snacking
Several research and studies show positive effects of snacking on our health. Integrating healthy snacks into your diet can improve the quality of your life and work capacity. It boosts your brain function, manages your weight, and keeps you happy.
1. Healthy snacks keep you energized.
Remember that time of the day when you feel tired and sleepy. While at work or in a class, especially around midday or late in the evening. These are the signs that your body is working on low energy and needs a refill.
What do you do when your phone shows a low battery warning?
We Charge it; Right?
Similarly, when we feel low in energy, we need to recharge our bodies with nutritious food. Here snacking can help.
But what you snack on will ultimately reflect how you feel. If you are snacking on unhealthy snacks, you may experience an energy spike. But this spike is short-lived, leaving you drained and tired again. Whereas snacking on healthy snacks gives you a sustained energy supply to help you work better and nourishes your body.
So, when your body gives you a low energy warning, recharge yourself with good, nutritious snacks. Fresh fruits, roasted chickpeas, fox nuts, seed mix, popcorn, dried fruits, yogurt, cheese are few examples of healthy snacks when in need of quick healthy energy.
2. Healthy Snacks can keep Mood Swings Away
Low energy and blood sugar levels have a direct impact on your mood. It makes you cranky, irritable, and stressed. Your ability to concentrate and focus declines affecting your performance at work or school.
Research by Mintel reports that snacking habits in Indians are more emotional than physical. Around 37% of Indians choose snacks as a means to beat the stress.
Food is often viewed as a comforter when stressed or under pressure. These are the times when we fall prey to unhealthy junk food like chips, fries, candy bars, chocolates, etc. Caffeine, tea, and energy drinks are few abused beverages when stressed.
But it is times like this when our body needs good nutrition. Keeping a healthy snack handy for such situations is one way to deal with emotional eating.
3. Healthy Snacks balance Blood Sugar Levels
A long gap between meals adversely affects our blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels begin to drop 3-4 hours following a meal. Low blood leads to hypoglycemia which can be fatal.
Everyone (not just people with diabetes) should be attentive to their blood sugar levels. A sudden spike or drop in blood sugar levels gravely affects the body leading to insulin resistance, PCOS, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart diseases.
Whatever may be your health goal, balancing your blood sugar level is critical to it. Eating healthy snacks with protein and fiber every 2-3 hours helps to achieve a stable blood sugar level throughout the day.
4. Healthy Snacks for Nutrition
Our body needs several nutrients to work efficiently-proteins, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Adding all food groups to one meal increases the total calories and affects the absorption and availability of essential nutrients.
Eating small frequent meals (.i.e. three square meals and snacks once or twice in between) allows you to add foods from different food groups, divide calories throughout the day, and increase the availability of valuable nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, etc.
5. Healthy Snacks Help with Weight loss
Surprised? But it is true.
Snacking on healthy snacks works in 3 ways to help you lose weight:
- Curbs cravings
- Helps in portion control
- Speeds up metabolism
Cravings are one thing that messes up with your weight loss diet. Snacking at regular intervals reduces the cravings for unhealthy junk, sugary and fried food.
Snacking on healthy snacks keeps you full for a longer time, helping you cut down your portion size and prevent you from overeating.
Going hungry for more than 4-5 hours can send your body into famine mode, slowing down your metabolism. If you are trying to lose weight, slow metabolism is the last thing you want. Eating healthy snacks revs up your metabolism so that you can lose weight the right way.
Note: what you snack on will reflect whether you lose weight or gain. Remember to snack on healthy snacks to lose weight.
So that is all with the health benefits of snacking. We know you are wondering what snacks should you eat to reap all these health benefits.
Let’s look at what makes a snack healthy and some healthy snacking options you can easily integrate into your life.
What Makes a Snack a Healthy Snack?
Smart snacks, healthier snacks, mindful snacks, nutritious snacks, nourishing snacks, and diet snacks are synonyms for a healthy snack. So, do not get confused with the words the characteristics remain the same.
An ideal snack should provide the following three nutrients i.e.
- Fiber, and
- Healthy fats.
This trio together keeps you full for longer and carvings away. Besides, a snack to qualify to be healthy should contain essential nutrients, good carbs, and tasty to eat.
10 Healthy Snacks to Add to your Diet
The following are few healthy snack options you can keep handy and snack on the go:
Your healthy snack need not be anything extravagant. A simple fruit is also the best. Fruits are brimming with healthful nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy carbs. Add different colors and varieties of fruits.
Nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. It is found that eating nuts promote heart health, helps lose weight, balances hormones, and fights stress, anxiety, and depression.
When eaten in moderation, nuts are not very high in calories. Some healthy nuts to add to your snacking regime are macadamia nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and many more.
3. Roasted chickpeas
Roasted chickpeas or chana are the oldest and the most popular Indian snack. Chickpeas contain protein, fiber, good carbs, and other essential nutrients like omega 3, choline, iron, and B-complex vitamins that help in satiety and weight management. (source)
4. Seed mix:
Seeds are tiny powerhouses with bountiful nutrients. Seeds contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Seed to include are flaxseeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds, papaya seeds.
Trail mixes are mixtures of seeds, nuts, fruits, etc. Trail mix is a wholesome snack bringing the goodness of several superfoods together.
5. Dried fruits:
Fruits are often inconvenient to store or carry while traveling or camping or while at work. enjoy the goodness of nutrition
6. Energy bars /granola bars:
Energy bars or granola bars made with whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, and other healthy ingredients make a good and healthy snack. Energy bars are easy to make at home, or you can buy them. Be sure to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists to choose a healthy bar.
Yogurt or curd provides good bacteria for the gut, and a healthy gut is a sign of a healthy body.
8. Whole-grain crackers or khakra:
Make a healthy and crunchy snack to be enjoyed with tea or during short breaks. They are available in lip-smacking flavors to suit all your cravings.
Popcorn has always been a favorite with kids and adults alike. But adding sugar, salt and butter make it unhealthy.
Cheese, fox nuts, olives, vegetable sticks, smoothies, eggs are few other healthy snacks you can include.
Things to remember while buying a healthy snack
We lead a busy life, and none of us have time to prepare snacks at home. The need for convenient food led to an increase in the market for junk food.
Though convenient, packaged foods are highly processed, contains chemicals and preservative and low on the nutrition scale. Dependency on ready-to-eat and packaged food is one reason why our eating habits have become so distorted and lifestyle diseases so rampant.
Several products and brands claim to be healthy. Just flip them over and check their nutritional label; You will be shocked!
But don’t worry, there are some genuinely healthy snacks available in the market, and now you can even buy healthy snacks online.
Next time you go shopping for healthy snacks, keep the following points in mind.
- Always read the back label of the snack. The back label helps to verify the claims made on the front of the pack.
- Read the nutritional label.
A nutrition label gives a clear picture of how healthy your snack is. things to check for while reading nutritional label are:
- Total calories per serving.
- Protein and fiber
- Type and amount of carbohydrate
- Total fats and total calories from fat
- Sodium content
- Percentage of micronutrients, if present.
- Check if the nutrient values provided are per serving or per 100g. It helps you decide how much you can eat at a time.
- Read the ingredient list. As a rule, the shorter is the ingredient list healthier the product.
- Always buy snacks that contain more natural food ingredients and fewer chemicals
- Look for the type of oil used. Screen the ingredient list for hydrogenated vegetable oils. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is Tran’s fat which you want to avoid at all cost.
- See if the snack contains any added sugar.
- Check for manufacturing date and best before dates.
To sum it up
Nielsen Global Survey on Snacking states that 67% of Indians replace their breakfast with a snack, and 56% consume snacks instead of lunch and dinner. Snacking when done correctly is healthy and has much to offer. But it all depends on what you choose to snack on.