The key to living a healthy life is to eat well and this does not only apply to the conventional meals like lunch,breakfast and supper, but also snacks. Most people think that snacks are for cheat days, while that does not have to be the case if you go for healthy snacks that are good for you. When it comes to snacks, the key is quite simple, avoid fast foods like hamburgers and pizzas as snacks and also keep away from sugary foods and beverages. With that said, in this article we shall look at the best nutrient dense snacks to eat, and their benefits.
Different people define snacks differently. There are people that define snacks as an eating occasion that mainly occurs in between the three main meals; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other people define snacks as a type of food. Snacks are looked at as small meals. In any case, both groups have good points they are bringing forward and so we can say that a snack describes both a type of food and an eating occasion. There are many different types of snacks; sugary snacks, fatty snacks, healthy snacks and all that. Snacking can be both beneficial and harmful in terms of health and weight. The type of snacks you have will determine if you will experience the benefits of snacking or not. With that said, here are the benefits of snacking.
Benefits Of Eating Nutrient Dense Snacks
Nutrient dense snacks come with a lot of benefits, these benefits include:
Snacks Provide The Necessary Nutrients
Our bodies need many nutrients to be healthy and function properly. The food we eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner might not be able to provide us with all the nutrients we need and that is where snacks come in. Healthy snacks contain different nutrients that are required by the body (4). Greek yoghurt contains proteins and calcium, fruits contain numerous vitamins and minerals plus fiber and these are all beneficial to the body. The best part of it all is that you can get all those important nutrients without having to eat the same meals you always eat. This means if you are bored of let’s say eating chicken at dinner, you can get some protein from Greek yoghurt, nuts and so on.
Snacking Helps Provide Energy
People sometimes experience a lack of energy during the day. Most people experience it after lunch, the period between lunch and dinner. People usually refer to that as the afternoon slump (2). This mostly happens because of a lack of energy where you feel all tired, you don’t want to do anything, you just want to rest. A good way to address this is by healthy snacking. Choosing the right snacks gives you the energy you need during times that you don’t have energy and are flat-out lazy. In such cases, it is not advisable to go for sugary snacks. This is from the fact that sugary snacks don’t increase your energy levels for a long period of time and also the sugar from these snacks will make your blood sugar spike and then crash and this is not what you want. The key is to go for healthy snacks that are made up of complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. These types of snacks will provide you energy for longer and will not lead to wild blood sugar fluctuations.
Snacking Helps Increase Your Concentration
There are usually times in the day when you can’t concentrate at all. It may be at work or at school. Eating healthy nutrient dense snacks helps increase your focus, concentration and performance (2). According to the American Dietetic Association, snacking between meals helps increase concentration and makes it easy to carry out certain tasks. In such cases, go for snacks like avocados, berries, dark chocolate and so on (4).
Snacking Reduces Hunger
We all have to admit that the time between the three main meals is too long without eating something. If you go without eating for long, you start feeling hungry, you lack energy, you start being easily irritated, you are unable to concentrate. A good way to prevent all this is by snacking. Go for energy giving snacks that have low calories yet are quite filling.
Snacking And Weight
Losing weight is one of those things that most people look to achieve every year. There are so many ways to lose weight but they all come down to burning more calories than you are taking in or taking in less calories than you body needs. That creates a calorie deficit which results in weight loss. Snacking affects the weight scales on both sides and that is why you have to be careful when snacking while on a weight loss diet.
How Does Snacking Help With Weight Loss?
Snacking helps with weight loss by controlling your appetite (3). When you only have three meals a day, there is a very high chance that you will get so hungry and end up overeating when you sit down to eat or even you could end up succumbing to hunger pains and reach for unhealthy junk foods. Both of these scenarios are likely to deter you from your weight loss journey.
Healthy snacking helps by preventing you from becoming too hungry and then overeating or grabbing something unhealthy to eat. In this case, you should go for healthy snacks that have high protein and fibre counts and still have low calorie counts. Proteins and fibre make you feel full faster and for longer and this helps you reduce your daily calorie intake hence promoting weight loss. This means when it comes to eating your meals, you won’t be able to eat as much as you would have eaten had you not snacked. The difference in calories after factoring in the snacks’ calorie total could promote weight loss.
How Does Snacking Promote Weight Gain?
This is commonly the case when people go for unhealthy, high calorie snacks. Studies show that obese people snack more regularly than normal people and that is in part why they experience weight gain (3). A study done in the Philippines on elementary school children showed that the kids that snacked the most were twice as likely to be overweight as compared to others who snacked less. The researchers attributed the weight gain to the increase in calories consumed by the children. If you eat more calories than your body burns, your body will store the extra calories as fat hence weight gain.
In addition to this, weight gain is also caused when people don’t compensate for their snacks by eating less during meal times (3). As we said earlier, snacking helps you cut off some extra pounds only if after snacking you don’t eat as much as you would normally eat on days you don’t snack. The problem comes when you snack and still eat your normal amount of food. This translates in the calories that were received while snacking as stored extra calories hence weight gain.
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The Best Nutrients Dense Snacks
Now that you know that snacks can come with numerous benefits and that they can help you either lose weight or gain weight and it all depends on how you handle them. Here are healthy nutrient packed snacks that you can add to your diet to make your snacking habits healthy (1).
1. Almond Butter
Almond butter is a great alternative to peanut butter and is packed with proteins, vitamin E and other nutrients that are good for the body. If you can afford to buy only one nut butter from the list below, choose almond butter. This food is sometimes fermented and has a unique taste which makes it stand apart from peanut butter. When you are choosing almond butter, go for raw or all natural one and avoid those that have added sugar as they are not healthy snacks. Nutrients found in almonds include protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, zinc, copper and omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Coconut Flour Biscuits
Coconut flour biscuits are rich in fiber, low in calories and moist which makes them the perfect cookie replacement option. They have a unique texture when baked and if you fill them with jelly or even with peanut butter, you cannot go wrong as they have a nice taste as well.
3. Banana Bread Smoothie
Banana bread smoothie is rich in fiber and proteins which makes it a great source of nutrition for your body and most especially for those who want to lose weight as it is low in calories. Adding avocado helps in the digestion of the banana making it one of the best snacks for good health.
4. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are high in protein, which makes them a good snack option for those who are weight-conscious and want to eat healthy. They contain the essential fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids which can be easily incorporated into the body and help build muscle.
5. Avocado Filled Toast
Avocado is one of the healthiest snacks that you will ever eat and this is because it is rich in fiber and healthy fats and it also has so many antioxidants that can help support your immune system against infections. The other thing about this snack is that it is filling and can keep you fuller for longer as compared to the peanut butter. This helps with weight management if that is what you are going for. If you get full faster and for longer it means you won’t eat as much as you normally do, hence promoting weight loss.
6. Sweet Potato Chips
We eat normal potato chips so often. What if we told you there is a healthier, sweeter option? Introducing sweet potato chips. Sweet potato chips are rich in fiber, vitamin B6 and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and potassium. They have a crispy texture that makes them stand out from regular potato chips. They are low in calories especially when they are baked and not fried and most of all they taste great.
7. No-Grain Granola Bars
Granola bars are tasty, tasty snacks that will help you fight hunger especially if you find yourself working throughout the day away from home. They contain protein, fiber and carbohydrates that can help keep your body healthy. They contain no gluten which is a good thing for those who are sensitive to it.
Cashews are one of the healthiest snacks in the world that you will definitely want to add to your nightstand or keep in your purse for yourself as they are rich in protein and a good source of vitamin B2 and E. They have a good taste as well so it is advised to store them in airtight containers so they do not go stale easily.
9. Whole Grain Crackers
Crackers are great to have in your nightstand or in your house generally. Whole grain crackers are a good source of complex carbohydrates which can help keep your body fueled for longer. They have a crunchy texture which is another reason why you will want to keep them in your nightstand as they taste great and can be appetizing especially when you do not feel like eating anything else.
10. Whole Grain English Muffin
English muffins are great for those who love white bread but cannot finish off the meal with just that because they feel too heavy. The whole grain content of these muffins will keep you satisfied and your body fuelled for longer. This helps you go longer without having to eat or snack and this is quite beneficial for people who want to manage their weight. If you want to eat snacks while on a weight loss journey, go for heavy, nutrient dense snacks like the whole grain english muffin. They provide the needed nutrients and at the same time help in your weight loss journey.
11. Whole Grain Bagel
The bagel is a staple in many people’s day to day life, especially the ones who enjoy having bagels for breakfast. This will not only help you with your snack situation but also with the nutrition you are getting first thing in the morning; as it is full of fibre and protein content which will give you energy to keep going throughout the day.
12. Tofu-Miso Soup
Who said soups can’t be snacks? The person who said that has really never come across the Tofu-miso soup. Tofu-miso soup is a Japanese variety of soup that will make you feel good and even give you energy. The soup has a great traditional taste that will surely delight your taste buds, especially when you are tired or feeling low on energy. You can add extra veggies if you feel like it for a healthier option of this snack.
13. Brown Rice Crispy Treats
They are not that crispy but they sure do have the taste for them and they are also great for those who love sweet things as they contain brown sugar, that is high in sugar content; which is good enough to keep your body fueled for longer.
14. Almond Butter And Banana Sandwiches
The sandwich is always a favourite when it comes to snacks but adding almond butter on top of a banana will make this snack even more fulfilling as it contains a lot of protein content which also makes it a good meal replacement option for those who want to cut on calories.
15. Salsa And Whole Grain Tortilla Chips
Salsa and tortilla chips make your mouth water once you think about them as they taste great when combined together. The salsa adds flavour while the tortilla chips add a crunchy texture that makes them even more appealing and appetizing.
16. Fig And Apricot Bars
Fig and apricot bars are great for those who like sweet snacks and they will give you energy as their sugar content is high. They taste great and will also keep your body fueled for longer. If you have been looking for a healthy snack that is low in calories, then look no further than this.
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17. Pumpkin Snack Cake
Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A which is very essential in keeping your eyes healthy. It is also full of fiber which makes it helpful in the digestion process therefore making it one of the best snacks for maintaining good health.
18. Blueberry Muffin
Blueberry muffins are a good snack choice that can help you maintain good health and they also taste great. They can be eaten plain or with your morning coffee. If you are a fan of sweet things, then this is the snack for you.
19. Flaxseed Banana Muffins
Flaxseed is an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids which gives your body energy for longer periods of time and it also works as a great antioxidant which helps keep your joints and bones healthy. It also keeps your heart healthy as well as being very good for the skin.
20. Whole Wheat Bagel With Goat Cheese
Goat cheese is rich with protein, calcium and Vitamin D. It is one of the healthiest cheeses in the world as its milk comes from goats that live freely on a natural diet, therefore making it free from all kinds of antibiotics and other things that can be given to conventionally raised dairy cows.
21. Fruit Salad With Grilled Chicken And Spinach Leaves
This is one of those options for eating healthy. They are both full of nutrients that will keep you satisfied for longer hours and your body fueled for longer.
The Bottom Line
The nutrient dense snacks highlighted above come with many benefits. They help provide you with all the necessary nutrients that your body requires for proper functioning, they help give you energy to deal with your tasks properly throughout the day, they help increase your concentration and so much more. When deciding to add snacks to your diet, go for snacks that are healthy so that you can experience the benefits highlighted above. It is important to remember that snacks can either help you gain weight or lose weight and it all depends on how you go about with them. Do not eat anything that you are allergic to.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 47 Healthy Snack Ideas to Power You Through the Day (2021, self.com)
- Health Benefits Of Snacking That Will Make Your Munching Guilt Disappear (2016, littlethings.com)
- Snacking Benefits (2013, todaysdietitian.com)
- Why Are Healthy Snacks Important? (n.d., livestrong.com)