Satisfy cravings, keep your energy levels up, and contribute towards your daily nutritional needs.
By Annie Hayes
Working from home means it has become easier to snack during the day than ever. And for many of us, this means stress eating. Unfortunately, many convenience foods are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and offer little nutritional value.
By taking the time to assemble healthy snacks that have a good mix of macronutrients – that’s carbohydrates, protein and good fats – you’ll satisfy cravings, keep your energy levels up, and contribute towards your daily nutritional needs.
James Stark is a personal trainer with 10+ years of experience and co-founder of Starks Fitness gyms, SF Nutrition and SF Retreats. Here, he shares a selection of healthy home snacking ideas you can whip up with ease when cravings strike:
- Avocado slices on fibre crackers
‘Avocado are a great source of monounsaturated fats and contain an array of vitamins including vitamins C, E and K,’ says Stark.
They’re also extremely satiating. A study from the Illinois Institute of Technology found that substituting refined carbohydrates for fresh avocado can ‘significantly suppress hunger and increase meal satisfaction’.
Pair with high-fibre crackers and you’ll boost your gut health, too. ‘Fibre is important to keep your digestive tract in check, so combine these and you have yourself a solid snack,’ he adds.
2. Dark chocolate and almonds
Sometimes only a sweet snack will do. Dark chocolate has a stimulant effect, and gives your brain a boost by improving your attention, according to research by Northern Arizona University.
‘Cocoa contains flavonoids and polyphenols; antioxidants that help to prevent oxidative stress,’ says Stark. ‘Almonds are a great source of healthy fat and nutrient-dense – containing selenium, zinc and magnesium. This is a power snack!’
3. Cucumber slices and hummus
‘Cucumber contains a number of nutrients, especially vitamin K for bone health, and it’s made mostly of water which can help replenish hydration,’ says Stark. ‘Hummus contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties – from the olive oil – and is high in plant-based protein.’
You don’t have to resign yourself to shop-bought chickpea hummus. It’s easy to make at home, and you can experiment with different pulses. Eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can increase fullness, meta-analysis from St. Michael’s Hospital concluded.
4. Pear and ricotta cheese
Pears are especially rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, copper and potassium. They’re also a good source of polyphenol antioxidants – specifically the peel, which contains up to six times more polyphenols than the flesh – and flavonoid antioxidants, which help fight inflammation.
They make for a delicious and filling sweet and savoury treat paired with ricotta cheese, which contains 14 grams of protein and 25 per cent of your daily calcium needs in each 80 gram serving. Plus, it’s high in phosphorus, vitamins A and B, and zinc.
5. Greek yoghurt with flaxseed
‘Greek yoghurt is a rich source of calcium for bone health, and it also provides probiotics to keep a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut,’ says Stark. Plus, it’s high in protein, keeping you fuller for longer.
‘Flaxseed is high in omega 3 and polyphenols, and is high in fibre for the digestive tract,’ he adds. Research from the American Physiological Society found flaxseed improves metabolic health and protects against diet-induced obesity.
6. Chia pudding with cinnamon
Small but mighty, chia seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch. These small seeds are a reliable source of bone-bolstering micronutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are high in essential omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fibre – allowing them to absorb large amounts of water, which increases satiety.
Top your chia pudding with cinnamon, a potent health-boosting spice that boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
7. Olives and cheese
‘Olives are mainly made up of water, but contain around 15 to 20 per cent of monounsaturated fat and are potent in vitamin E,’ says Stark.
Known as oleic acid, this type of fat is known for its many health benefits, which include improving heart health and reducing inflammation. Olives are also high in disease-preventing nutrients called phytonutrients.
‘Cheese is another great source of fats, calcium and protein, and is rich in vitamin A and B12,’ he adds. ‘It’s all about getting good quality cheese.’
8. Apple slices with peanut butter
Apples are packed with satiating fibre – specifically pectin, which acts as a prebiotic and feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Like pears, they’re a rich source of polyphenol antioxidants and are a source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.
They taste great with peanut butter, which is comprised of about 25 per cent protein and high in healthy fats – specifically oleic acid – keeping you satiated for longer. Peanut butter also contains high levels of vitamins E, B3, B6, folate, magnesium, copper and manganese.
Healthy snacks: creating your own
Inventing your own healthy snacks couldn’t be any easier. Below, Alex Ruani, UCL doctoral researcher and chief science educator at The Health Sciences Academy, shares some key food groups to consider when making your own nutritious recipes.
‘The added benefit is that all of these alternatives are low-glycemic,’ he adds. ‘This means they cause a slow sugar release into your bloodstream, which helps maintain energy and sustained focus, as opposed to making you feel lethargic or sleepy in the middle of the day.’
Foods with a high-water content are more filling as they delay gastric emptying. These include fresh fruit such as grapes, apples, kiwi and melons; low-salt broth soup; and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers.
Probiotic-rich foods are shown to have beneficial effects on the regulation of certain hunger-suppressing hormones. These include fat-free yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese or soft cheese, tempeh, miso, sourdough bread, fermented cabbage and pickles.
Not only are they physically filling, but fibre-rich foods also help to produce hunger-surpressing short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate in the gut. Think raw vegetable crudités: celery sticks, baby carrots, cucumber sticks, bell pepper strips, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, radicchio, radishes and sugar snap peas.
Shown in countless satiation experiments, protein-rich foods reduce your desire to continue eating and keep you fuller for longer. Think boiled eggs, fat-free yogurt, fat-free cottage cheese, tofu and coconut yogurt.