If you’re like most of us, your good intentions for healthy eating have been shattered by a bad case of the four o’clock munchies on more days than you care to admit. The good news is choosing a healthy and delicious snack is easier than you think. Here’s how.
Confused about what to eat between meals? The key to choosing smarter snacks is not to think of them as a mini break from good eating habits, but as mini meals.
Follow the Food Guide
Smart snacks will keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day. And if you follow the principles in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, your snacks will contribute to your daily nutritional requirements.
- Try to build each snack from at least two of the four food groups: vegetables and fruits; grain products; milk and alternatives; meat and alternatives
- Choose foods that are lower in fat, sugar or salt (sodium)
- Select snacks with lots of fibre (like beans, whole grain breads and nuts) to help you feel full longer
- Watch the portion size. Take the time to measure your food portions rather than rely on sight alone. Once you get familiar with what a half-cup of salsa looks like, for example, you can then dish out your serving with more confidence. If you’re buying a prepackaged snack (like a bag of mixed dried fruit), read the nutrition label. It will tell you what makes up a serving size, the nutritional information per serving and possibly how many servings the package contains
- Enjoy a wide variety of foods.
Remember, high-fat, high-calorie snacks that are low in nutrients are the ones to avoid. So take a pass on things like:
- Buttered popcorn
- French fries
- Some types of granola bars
- Ice cream
- Sugary beverages (fruit-flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks)
Great everyday snacks
Here are some ideas to get you started on the road to smart, healthy and satisfying snacking.
If you frequently find yourself craving salty snack foods, consider simple substitutions that replace salt with other flavour enhancers.
- One to two hard-boiled eggs, sprinkled with salt-free seasoning (one meat/alternative)
- Half a whole grain bagel with 50 g low-fat cheese (one grain + one milk/alternative)
- 250 mL (1 cup) low-fat cottage cheese with half an apple, diced, and a sprinkle of cinnamon (one milk/alternative + half fruit)
- One whole wheat pita and 175 mL (¾ cup) hummus (two grain products + one meat/alternative)
- One slice rye bread with 125 mL (½ cup) canned tuna or salmon (one grain product + one meat/alternative)
- One ear of corn with pepper or other seasoning (one vegetable/fruit)
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, fruit makes a fantastic snack, as do low-fat dairy products. Try to keep a couple of options in the house or at work.
- One medium apple, banana, pear or a small bunch (20) grapes (one fruit/vegetable)
- 125 mL (½ cup) chopped fruit such as cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, cherries, watermelon (one fruit/vegetable)
- 175 g (¾ cup) yogurt (one dairy)
- 125 mL (½ cup) pudding or custard (one milk/alternative)
- 250 mL (1 cup) fortified soy beverage (one milk/alternative)
- Two medium fresh figs (one vegetable/fruit)
- 60 mL (¼ cup) dried fruit such as apricots, raisins, mango (one vegetable/fruit)
- 125 mL (½ cup) unsweetened/no salt added fruit juice (one vegetable/fruit)
- 200 mL drinkable low-fat yogurt (one milk/alternative)
When you really need to sink your teeth into something, reach for crunchy veggies, fruit or whole grain foods.
- 500 mL (2 cups) plain popcorn (one grain product)
- 125 mL (½ cup) raw, cut-up veggies such as baby carrots, peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes (one vegetable/fruit)
- 30 g baked tortilla chips with 125 mL (½ cup) tomato salsa (one grain + one vegetable/fruit)
- 60 mL (¼ cup) plain almonds (one meat/alternative)
- 60 mL (¼ cup) pumpkin or sunflower seeds, unsalted
- 3 graham crackers (one grain product)
- One tablespoon (15 mL) peanut or almond butter or sesame tahini on a slice of whole grain toast (half meat/alternative + one grain product)
Prepackaged snack smarts
Be cautious when buying prepackaged snacks since some that are labelled “healthy” (like some energy bars) could actually be high in fat, sugar or salt. You need to read the list of ingredients.
Here are some words to watch out for on a product’s list of ingredients:
What it is
Baking powder or soda
Sodium (alginate, benzoate, bisulfate, hydroxide)
Corn syrup (or corn syrup solids)
Sugar or sugar alcohol
Watch out for words that end in “ose” – generally, that’s a sugar.
Glycerol (or glycerides)
Hydrogenated fats and oils
Palm (or palm kernel) oil
Powdered whole milk solids
Looking for recipes? Check out our recipes for delicious and nutritious meals and snacks.