Fill the gap – healthy snacking

Healthy snack options

Sarah DrabbleSnacking shouldn’t just be seen as a way to fill the hunger gap – it can also be an important way of topping up on healthy nutrients. Sarah James, editor of World Cancer Research Fund’s Healthy You supporter magazine, shares her top snacking tips.

If you find it hard to resist reaching for a snack between meals, you aren’t alone.

More than 90 per cent of us snack on a daily basis and the average adult eats two to three snacks a day.

General healthy eating advice is to limit the amount of fat, sugar and salt we eat, and to eat plenty of fibre. We should try to follow this when choosing our snacks, cutting back on popular snacks like biscuits, cake, chocolate and crisps. These foods don’t provide us with many healthy nutrients and are high in calories – eaten regularly or in large amounts they could contribute to weight gain, which is a known cause of 12 different types of cancer.

Healthier snacking – top tips

Firstly, do you really need to eat something? Maybe you just snack out of habit – for example, having a biscuit with a cup of tea. It’s also possible to confuse thirst with hunger. If you haven’t had a drink recently, try a glass of water before reaching for a snack.

Next, think about what you’re snacking on and whether it’s a healthy choice. If your normal choice is…

  • Chocolate  – opt for a single finger of chocolate-coated wafer or a fun-sized chocolate bar, and a piece of fruit. This gives you a lower-calorie chocolate fix, plus fibre and vitamins from the fruit. Fibre is not only good for bowel health but will help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
  • Biscuits – try a wholegrain crispbread for the crispy texture, with slices of sweet banana. Wholegrain foods are also rich in fibre, and crispbreads are lower in calories than most biscuits.
  • Cake – go for a wholemeal scone or toasted wholemeal teacake, with slices of strawberry instead of jam or butter. This is much lower in fat and sugar, and provides a source of healthy fibre.
  • Crisps – choose plain, air-popped popcorn or vegetable sticks with a small amount of reduced-fat houmous. Both options are lower in calories, fat and salt, and a good fibre source. Add a sprinkle of smoked paprika to the popcorn for extra flavour.

Portion control

Whatever you snack on, remember that a snack is meant to be a small meal. Put it on a small plate or bowl and put the rest of the packet back in the cupboard.

> More healthy recipes

> Take the Cancer Health Check

> Charlotte Stirling-Reed’s tips on getting 5 A DAY into your child’s snacks