If you enjoy a daily snack or two, you’re in good company. According to market researchers Mintel, 66% of UK adults snack at least once a day.1
The state of snacking
In the UK, the traditional ‘three square meals a day’ ethos has been replaced with a more personalised approach to eating, with busy lifestyles and spending more time away from home all key factors in the shift.
The average Brit munches through around 6.5kg of snack foods per year.2 Considering how light many snacks are (thinks crisps and popcorn), it’s safe to say that as a nation we do some serious snacking to reach that!
However, the upsurge in interest in health and wellness which has defined food trends for the past decade has not bypassed the snack world.
Now, instead of a salty, high-fat treat while we’re on the go, people want healthy, filling snacks which fit into their lifestyles.
The term ‘healthy snacks’ has been a popular internet search term for several years now, with a spike each January as snackers research ways to undo some of the excesses of the festive season. The key trends in recent years include high-protein, baked or ‘popped’ and low-fat products.3
Snackers are getting adventurous, too. Just some of the snacks that have been trending recently include kombu (an edible kelp), nori/laver, and wakame (both types of seaweed) flavours.4
Why can selecting a healthy snack be difficult?
One major mistake we often make with snacking is allowing ourselves to become so hungry that we forgo our healthy goals and just select what is available. Most often, the selection of snacks at service stations, train stations, town centre kiosks and some shops aren’t exactly helpful – they can be full of sugar, fat, salt and artificial colours and flavours.
This is why planning in advance is crucial. Invest in a small lunch box to store pita strips or nut butter balls, and some smaller watertight pots for things like cherry tomatoes, grapes and hummus.
Of course, in an ideal world, we would be able to prepare a snack in our own kitchens and have full control over what goes into them. In reality, though, snacks are most often grabbed on the go – between meetings, while commuting or out shopping.
When it comes to choosing healthy snacks to buy, it’s easy to be taken in by clever marketing and ‘all-natural’ claims made by snack manufacturers.
Some snacks, such as granola have more sugar than chocolate or sweets. So, choose carefully as some well-known ‘healthy’ snacks might be hiding unhealthy ingredients.
What does the perfect snack look like?
The ideal snack should:
- Be low in calories and fat, so you don’t need to drastically reduce your meal sizes that day.
- Have some protein, which reduces appetite and helps you feel fuller for longer.
- Be portable – ideally something you can throw in a container or straight in your bag.
- Be something which doesn’t cause a blood sugar spike, such as a sugary food or one high in refined carbohydrates.
What snacks are healthy?
Our quick guide will help you spot the healthy snack myths.
|Snack (1 portion)||Calories||Sugar content||Fat content||Is it a healthy snack myth?|
|7-8 strawberries||25 calories||5.1g||0.4g||No. Strawberries are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, so snacking on strawberries is a great idea. They will still be good for a few hours out of the fridge, so fill a snack box with strawberries and be on your way.|
|Small bunch of grapes||32 calories||7.9g||0.1g||Definitely not – grapes are a wonderful snack food. They contain vitamins, water and antioxidants and come in handy bunches.|
|Protein bar (40g) peanuts and chocolate flavour||198 calories||6.2g||12g||Look for one based around nut, quinoa or oat protein with no added sugar. A protein bar can be a solid choice if you’re really hungry and there is no chance of a healthy meal any time soon. But they’re not exactly a ‘health food’, so don’t eat them every day.|
|Dried fruit and nut bar (35g)||145 calories||13.6g||7g||Although lower in calories and fat than a protein bar, these have relatively high sugars. If the bar has ‘no added sugar’, don’t be fooled. Natural sugar is still sugar. Keep these for days when you’re active and need an energy boost.|
|A handful of nuts (30g)||171 calories||1.4g||14.5||Containing fibre, protein and healthy fats, nuts are among the best healthy snacks. Pair the with fruit to make a complete snack which will keep you satisfied. As they’re high in fat and calories, be careful not to eat too many.|
|A handful of dried banana chips (30g)||153 calories||6.6g||9.4g||If eaten in moderation, dried fruit can be a great snack. They are energy-dense and rich in vitamins in minerals. The high fat and sugar content means you shouldn’t overdo it on these more-ish sweet snacks.|
|A handful of chocolate coated peanuts (30g)||133 calories||12.6g||7.5g||Coated nuts (such as yoghurt or chocolate) are a healthy snack myth. The sugar and fat content, coupled with the fact that we’re likely to eat these by the handful mean these delicious delicacies should be left for treat time.|
|2 rice cakes||64 calories||0.2g||0.6g||Rice cakes are low in calories, sugar and fat and can be healthy savoury snacks. However, they’re not very filling and are unlikely to do the trick as a snack alone. Loading a rice cake with a slice of mashed avocado, or even a tablespoon of peanut butter would add healthy fats to help fill you up. Of course, the calories, sugar and fat will also increase.|
|1 bag quinoa crisps (30g)||165 calories||0.9g||8.6g||‘Healthy’ crisps such as lentil, chickpea and quinoa crisps are very tempting as a healthier option over the traditional potato. However, the calories and fat still add up considering they’re unlikely to fill you up. Dipping them in hummus or a tomato salsa will add nutrients and make your snack more filling.|
|A handful of salted popcorn (30g)||141 calories||0.2g||7.1g||Air-popped popcorn can be a great healthy snack. Beware of shop-bought sweet versions, which are usually extremely high in calories and sugar.
If you’re making your own, a light sprinkling of salt, paprika or sumac makes for tasty savoury popcorn, while a pinch of cinnamon sugar turns plain popcorn into a sweet treat.
What are 5 healthy snacks recommended by nutritionists?
Holland & Barrett Nutritionists Alex Glover and Emily Rollaston share their favourite healthy snacks.
Healthy sweet snacks
- Low fat Greek yoghurt, berries and a drizzle of honey
- Frozen grapes
- Apples sprinkle with cinnamon and tsp of nut butter to dip
- Cacao chia pudding
- Peanut butter stuffed dates sprinkled with crushed pistachios
Healthy snacks for work
- Toasted paprika pumpkin seeds
- Lightly salted rice cake with 2tbsp cottage cheese, spring onion and chives
- On the go protein pot (boiled eggs with a sprinkling of chilli powder and spinach)
- Spicy Gazpacho
- Veggie sticks and hummus with wholemeal pita slices
Healthy snacks for kids
- Overnight oats made with yoghurt and berries
- Rice cakes with smashed avocado
- Veggie sticks and cream cheese to dip (cucumber, carrot, bell pepper)
- Fruit kebabs
- Whole-wheat crackers with honey and banana
Healthy snacks for vegans
- Toasted wholemeal pittas and homemade baba ganoush
- Avocado salsa and baked wholemeal tortilla slices
- Homemade nut butter balls
- Toasted curry chickpeas
- Popcorn flavoured with nutritional yeast
Last updated: 11 August 2020
1 Mintel Reports – Consumer Snacking Report – UK – May 2019 https://reports.mintel.com/display/919568/