5 snacks you never knew were healthy for you
There has been a recent meta-analysis released by the BMJ to state that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day after all. To a woman that enjoys her porridge, acai bowls, pancakes and avo on toast more than anything (I paused before writing “anything” thinking it sounded a little too extremist, but actually, no, I truly do love breakfast), this study came as a bit of a blow.
Ultimately it found that people who eat breakfast consume on average 260 kcal a day more than those who skip breakfast and weigh on average 0.44 kg more. So contrary to previous belief, there is no overwhelming evidence that breakfast helps with weight loss, and their results indicate that it might even lead to weight gain. Let’s face it, 0.44 kg isn’t much, and I’ve passed urine weighing more than that, but for people who are trying to lose weight, 260 kcal a day can be significant. But all the joys of a foodie’s life can’t be taken away, so in an attempt to regain the upper hand in the health and well-being battle against the ‘no breakfast’ gestapo, I have put together five snacks that feel like a treat but are healthy, to eat, enjoy and revel in (in moderation…yawn).
This snack, coating our fingers with buttery, sticky goodness has been long associated with a naughty cinema treat, but with a few tweaks, popcorn can be considered healthy. Of course, as with most things, portion size is key, but if you make this at home using herbs and spices for flavour rather than tonnes of butter, sugar or salt, then you’re basically eating low fat, high fibre puffs of air! The fibre may help you keep fuller for longer, therefore acting as an aid to weight loss, and help regulate your blood sugar, stopping you from reaching for unhealthy sugary foods to keep your energy levels up.
If you scoff the lot of it, sadly I cannot help you, but in moderation (limited to 1 ounce a day), I can give you several reasons that chocolate can be considered good for you. The key here is to eat dark chocolate, not only is it richer so you are not tempted to empty the whole bar into you oesphagus, but it has less fat, and the higher cocoa content has higher concentrations of minerals like selenium, zinc and potassium. The flavanols within dark chocolate have been found to reduce cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol, improving the malleability and relaxation of your blood vessels therefore reducing your blood pressure, and improving insulin sensitivity, helping you to regulate your blood sugar levels. There may even be a link to improved memory and a reduced risk of dementia due to another chemical in cocoa called epicatechin. Lastly the tryptophans in chocolate encourages the brain to release endorphins and our body’s antidepressant serotonin, reducing stress and increasing happiness.
- Nut butter There was a time when the only nut butter you could get was peanut butter full of salt, sugar and palm oil, but oh how things have changed. Not only do you have the choice of an array of nuts, but they have become exceedingly healthier, removing all the nasties and leaving you with healthy fats, high protein, fibre, vitamins B, A, and E, folate, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium and the all- important omega 3s. This combination means that nuts have been implicated in reduced cardiovascular, cancer and type 2 diabetes risks, and if eaten within moderation, despite their high fat, even weight loss. Pop some of that creamy goodness inside a date or slathered on a crispy Granny Smith, and you have my ultimate healthy snacks.
- Chips and dips
There is room for interpretation given the variation of chips and dips out there, and whilst I’m not suggesting a packet of greasy fried crisps and a dollop of sour cream, there are ways to make chips and dips healthy, for example by eating baked chips rather than fried, and by avoiding the cream- based dips and instead making homemade vegetable-based dips like guacamole or salsa. I’m a big guac fan, and love to revel in the numerous health benefits of avocados – it is laden with heart healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and simply put, studies have shown that avocado eaters have been found to be healthier than people who didn’t eat this fruit. But it’s not all about the savoury, and my favourite sweet chip and dip combo has to be homemade apple chips with almond butter dip.
Although cheese in general is high in saturated fat and therefore not considered a particularly healthy snack, I hate to taint all cheese with the same brush, and it is worth remembering that cheese does have its health benefits like its high calcium and protein content. Some cheeses also have probiotic properties and may be a benefit to immune system and gut health. Softer cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta are actually naturally significantly lower in fat so you get the glory of cheese without the calorific burden. Feta is the healthiest cheese that gives you a tangy alternative to more fatty cheeses – just a half ounce will transform a salad. The best way to avoid over-eating cheese is by grating it over your dish. That way, you get cheese in every bite you take without eating a whole block’s worth of it!