It’s 3 p.m., you’re on the go or at work and you suddenly get peckish. Time to nip into the supermarket for bikkies, chips and chocolate bars, right? Not necessarily.
“Foods which are high in sugar, preservatives and fats (particularly the unhealthy, processed fats) are the things I recommend to reduce,” accredited practising dietician Chloe McLeod told The Huffington Post Australia.
While many of us might think shopping for healthy store-bought snacks is a hopeless task, it is possible.
“Check the food labels and ingredients -- it’s always going to come back to that,” McLeod said. “It’s always worthwhile checking so you know you’re making a healthier choice.”
“Look for foods that are high in fibre, low in added sugars, low in salt and contain an appropriate amount of natural sugars."
Basic guidelines to go by are:
- Sugar -- less than 10 grams per 100 grams (for a product without fruit) or 20 grams per 100 grams (for a product with fruit)
- Sodium -- less than 400 mg per 100 grams (a low sodium product is considered less than 120 mg per 100 grams)
- Fibre -- at least four grams of fibre per serve (food with at least seven grams of fibre per serve is considered an excellent source
One great tip to follow when shopping for healthy store-bought snacks: stay away from the middle aisles.
“The middle aisles are where you’ll find the more processed foods, like soft drinks, biscuits, chips and lollies,” McLeod said.
“Spend a bit more time around the edges of the supermarket -- that usually tends to be where the healthier things are.”
McLeod advises to look for snacks that are as natural and fresh with as little processing as possible.
“So fresh vegetables, fruit, natural nuts and seeds are going to be the best choice,” McLeod said.
However, for someone who is craving chocolate, carrots and apples might not seem too appealing. Plus, depending on the supermarket or convenience store, you might not have much fresh variety to choose from.
“Obviously fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t going to be the most convenient or possible, so having some packaged snacks on hand is always a good idea,” McLeod said.
Getting into the habit of checking food labels is key to making healthy food choices.
If you can't resist, instead of choosing salty chips and chocolate, opt to buy these snacks at the supermarket. They are still delicious and will keep us full for longer (and consequently, help to maintain a healthy weight).
“The yogurts I recommend are the unflavoured yogurts,” McLeod said. “Chobani or Farmers Union are great options and come in small tubs.”
“If you’re getting a flavoured one, the flavoured Chobani yogurts tend to be really good,” McLeod said. “They’re a lot lower in sugar than many of the other brands -- most of their flavoured ones are around 12 grams per 100 grams.”
Dry roasted beans
“Another great option are dry roasted chickpeas and fava beans,” McLeod said.
“There’s more of these on the market now and they make a really great, filling, high-fibre snack, which is also quite low in kilojoules.”
Muesli bars are more often than not full of added sugar and preservatives, but there are some great products amidst the crowded muesli bar section.
“If you’re looking for bars, I suggest the Uncle Toby’s Farmer’s Pick muesli bars, Goodness Superfoods’ Better For U! bars, or some of the low sugar Carman’s bars,” McLeod said.
Popcorn has been given a pretty bad rap due to its high salt and fat content -- but that’s not to say every type is unhealthy.
“Air popped popcorn would be a great option,” McLeod said.
Another healthy popcorn option is Cob’s Sea Salt popcorn from their Natural Range.
The chia pudding in Chia Pods is a great source of healthy fats, fibre and protein, while being dairy, gluten and preservative free.
“Chia Pods are another great option -- you could definitely grab those,” McLeod said.
Hummus with crackers or veggie sticks
Hummus is a healthy snack that helps keep you full due to its high protein and fibre content.
“You can get little packs of hummus with veggie sticks or rice crackers in some supermarkets,” McLeod said. “There has started to be some really good, less processed options around that are coming already portioned for you.”
Otherwise, McLeod recommends buying some Vita-Weats and a small tub of hummus to dip into.
Semi-healthy store-bought snacks
While these snacks are still healthier than your average junk food snacks, McLeod recommends watching the portion size as they can be higher in sugar and contain processed ingredients.
Date and cacao bars
“Dates are good for you but they are very high in sugar,” McLeod said. “So a lot of products that are made with dates can be too sugary -- just check the sugar content of those date bars.”
Even if the product contains the recommended 20 grams of sugar (for a product with fruit) per 100 grams, McLeod suggests aiming for lower.
“Because that’s still 20 percent sugar, which is quite high,” McLeod said.
On-the-go cheese and crackers
These go into the semi-healthy category as the crackers are typically highly processed and made from refined flour.
“I recommend them in some instances -- say, if you’re on a road trip and you’ve stopped at the service station and there’s not much else,” McLeod said.
“The crackers aren’t usually the best but having it in that small portion like it is, you’re likely to not eat more than one packet.
“So they can be a very useful snack, but using a wholegrain cracker with the cheese is better.”
They’re hot, they’re spicy, incredibly moreish and, turns out, they’re a good snack, too.
“They can potentially be high in salt so check the label, but they tend to be a pretty good option,” McLeod said. “If it’s just a handful it should be okay.”