If snacks are an important part of your day, knowing what the best options to enjoy at different times makes sense. As the day progresses, and depending on the amount of activity you do, nutritional needs differ, and reaching for different foods at different times is an easy way to help regulate your energy levels and hunger throughout the day.
So, here are some of the best snacks to enjoy at different times to tick the box on both your nutrient and energy needs…
Best morning snacks
Mid-morning snacking is a must for many an early morning riser or exerciser, with it not uncommon for those with a pumped up metabolism to feel hungry again a couple of hours after breakfast. As this is the time of day that the average person is most physically and cognitively active, combining good quality, wholegrain carbohydrates with protein in your snack choices will ensure you are kept full and satisfied until lunchtime.
These snacks also suit an afternoon exerciser to help ensure they are optimally fueled prior to a workout.
- Coffee and fruit
A perfect time for a caffeine hit that will have worn off by the afternoon, along with some naturally sweet fruit for energy. A small latte teamed with an apple or banana ticks the box on a number of key nutrients including protein, dietary fibre, calcium and magnesium.
- Fruit and yoghurt
There are many flavoured yoghurts out there but nutritionally you cannot go past a plain Greek or natural yoghurt served with some fresh fruit and nuts or seeds. Here you have created your own naturally sweet snack, but one with much less sugar and calories than pre-made yoghurt tubs and bowls.
- Wholegrain snack bar
There are many snack bars out there and the best options are those that combine wholegrains with protein to create a light meal bar that contains about 200 calories, and 5-10g of protein per serve.
Best afternoon snacks
For many of us an afternoon top up is a strategy that helps to prevent overeating once we get home. While many people crave sweet food at this time of day, opting for lighter, protein rich snacks will help to keep you full and satisfied throughout the remainder of the day, especially if you also enjoy these snacks with some extra chopped veggies such as carrots, cucumber, tomatoes or capsicum.
- Cheese and crackers
With plenty of cheese lovers out there, the growing range of portion controlled cheese and wholegrain cracker snack packs means that you can enjoy some protein and calcium-rich cheese with a fibre-rich cracker for just 100-150 calories per serve.
Plus as cheese is especially satisfying, you will notice that you are not craving sweet food after enjoying this snack.
Just as there are many grain-based snack bars, so too are there many varieties of nut bars and the key is to look for options that contain a range of different nuts, have 5-10g of protein per serve and less than 5g of added sugars.
Enjoying a portion controlled nut based snack in the afternoon will again help to keep you full and satisfied for a couple of hours, but they are lower in carbohydrates as our energy demands reduce as the day progresses.
- Veggies and Hommus
Hommus, when enjoyed in a portion controlled serve (1-2 tbsp.), offers protein and good fats and is the perfect accompaniment to chopped veggies when you need to be munching on something but are not overly hungry.
Best after dinner snacks
Let’s be honest, few of us really need to eat after dinner, but there are times when we want to munch on something and here are the best options for this type of mindless munching.
Two cups of plain popcorn contains less than 20g of carbs and is a good source of dietary fibre. Pre-made varieties though can be high in added sugars and fats so opt to pop your own where possible.
- Ice-block on a stick
There are a growing number of low-calorie, low-sugar sweet ice-blocks and frozen yoghurts available in supermarkets which contain fewer than 100 calories and as little as 6g of sugars per serve.
- Frozen fruit
Whether you opt for banana, mango, berries or grapes, frozen fruit tastes just like a sorbet and is an easy way to get a sweet hit minus the calorie load of chocolate, biscuits and other treats.
You could even dip your fruit in a little dark chocolate and freeze it as another, healthier, lower calorie dessert alternative.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.