Why Your Snacks Matter

Why Your Snacks Matter

Harriet Walker; Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian. A leader in the sports nutrition space within Australia, specialising in strength sports.


For many people, snack foods can be a major contributor to their daily calorie intake in today’s fast-paced world. However, in most cases, snack foods energy-dense and nutrient-poor, meaning they can easily blow your daily energy needs while providing little to no nutrient value. It has been estimated that close to one-third of calories consumed by adults in Australia come from ‘discretionary’ foods (AKA sugary, salty, or fried snack-type foods). This trend in snack food consumption means that for many, their diet falls short on the health front. The good news is that swapping out the less healthy options for more nutritious snacks can make a significant difference in overall diet quality and can be easily implemented. Let’s take a look at how unhealthy snacks stack up against healthier choices and what you can be on the lookout for when choosing snacks.

Healthy snacks boost your energy, not drain energy

Sugary snacks quickly ramp up your blood sugar levels and unless you are about to go hit the gym, can lead to a big drop in energy as your body works to lower your blood sugar levels after. The right snack can help you not only avoid that 3 pm chocolate bar but will also save you from the corresponding 3 pm slump in energy. Choosing snacks that provide quality carbohydrates and fibre will keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel which in turn will keep your energy levels stable too. As a rule, aim for a snack that provides you with 3g of fibre and choose more unprocessed foods that are more nutritious like fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Healthy snacks can help manage appetite and build muscle; not make you feel hungrier

Snacking on low quality processed foods can leave you still feeling hungry even though they usually contain a lot of energy. This is particularly the case for sugary snacks which easily go through your stomach without providing any feeling of fullness. If your appetite is getting in the way of you and a healthy diet, then you might want to look at increasing the protein content of your snacks. Protein is the macronutrient that has been proven to enhance the feeling of fullness, sending signals to your brain that you have had enough and should stop eating. Protein also plays a pivotal role in building muscle which means if you are regularly active, adding in extra protein-rich snacks can help with recovery from exercise and help you built metabolically active muscle tissue. Ideally, a healthy protein-rich snack will contain between 5-10g of protein.


Healthy snacks won’t have a long ingredients list

Some snacks can appear to be quite healthy from the packaging, however, if you take a moment to look at the ingredients list you may see a lot of ingredients that you don’t recognise or that just don’t seem like food! Choosing healthy snacks with an ingredients list that contains things that you can actually recognise is an easy rule of thumb for ensuring you are eating more nutritious foods and less empty calories.

Healthy fats will keep you full, processed fats may impact your health

Fats are an essential part of the diet and are involved in several processes in the body that keep you healthy such as moving vitamins around the body and hormone function. However, when a large proportion of the fats consumed are from processed or saturated fat sources, which are the types commonly used in processed snack foods, it can have a negative impact long term on certain health markers such as blood cholesterol levels. Choosing healthy fats which come from foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado will help boost the healthy fats circulating in your body. Nuts and seeds make a great snack that are also rich in fibre to keep you feeling full for longer!

Like many, you may have never even thought about your snacks and the role they play in your everyday diet, but it’s easy to see from these comparisons how sliding over from more processed nutrient devoid snack options to healthy wholefood options can totally change the quality of your usual diet. If you are looking to make changes to your diet but are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the task, paying attention to the types of snacks you consume can be a simple yet impactful place to start!

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