How can I make snacking more healthy?
Kelsey Brown, BSc
July 31, 2023
I’m sure we have all at some point in our lives reached for a biscuit, chocolate or a handful of crisps only to finish most or all of the pack. While it isn’t bad to occasionally eat these foods, and I am of the opinion that they shouldn’t be removed from your diet, regularly eating foods high in saturated fats and added sugars can contribute to your risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes - all things we want to avoid.
Here’s a key recommendation taken from our latest trait - FGF21, carbohydrate intake, and weight loss - that will allow you to continue enjoying the snacks you love while avoiding the health consequences of overindulgence.
“If you are craving something sugary, try eating some fibre and protein alongside the snack. For example, having one cookie with a protein yoghurt and some vegetables will help you feel fuller, making you less likely to reach for another sugary snack.”
With this recommendation, we are looking to reduce overeating by increasing satiety. Satiety is defined as the suppression of further intake of food following consumption. Foods that enhance satiety are those that are more effective at reducing appetite following consumption. This can help with healthy eating and weight management.
Protein is considered to be the most satiating macronutrient. One study spanning 12 weeks found that a high protein diet (25% of daily energy intake) promoted greater fullness throughout the day than a normal protein diet (14% of daily energy intake). A higher regular protein intake will satisfy your hunger needs and keep you fuller for longer. This in turn promotes less energy intake overall, making you less likely to overeat.
Fibre is another food type that is considered to be satiating. A diet that is high in fibre is thought to promote satiety because these foods have low energy density, meaning you can consume higher amounts without consuming excessive calories. For example, a 51 g Mars bar, which is a very energy-dense foodstuff, contains 228 calories. To reach almost the same amount of calories with a high-fibre food such as carrots, you could eat 500 g, which is roughly equal to five medium carrots. This is a much larger volume of food for the same amount of calories, which will fill you up much better than a Mars bar.
I know that having five carrots probably won’t satisfy your cravings in the same way as eating a Mars bar, so the method of pairing a snack with protein and fibre allows you to enjoy the less healthy foods, leaving you feeling fuller and adding more nutrition to the low-nutrient snack. It will also make you less likely to reach for a second Mars bar!
There are several different foods you could use to upgrade your snacking. Proteins such as yoghurt, chicken, hummus or light cheese are all great options. Fibre can come from a range of fruit and vegetables, all of which have good nutritional value and are low-calorie.
Let's have a look at what this method could look like. Say you are craving giant chocolate buttons. A serving size of buttons (25 g) could be paired with a high-protein yoghurt and sugar snap peas for fibre.
The chocolate buttons have little nutritional value and have 134 kcal per serving. The protein yoghurt can have around 20 g of protein and is 140 kcal for a 200 g pot. The cup of sugar snap peas might have about 27 kcal and also has a variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Added together this pairing has around 301 kcal.
So instead of finishing the bag of buttons which could contain 536 kcal (for a 100 g bag), you will have a less calorific and more nutritious plate of food, which will keep you fuller for longer, while also having the treat you want to help satisfy your cravings.
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