When we entered lockdown in 2020, it wasn’t the only radical lifestyle shift we experienced. Following months spent inside, our eating habits and nutrition drastically changed, as people raided kitchen cupboards and overindulged in sugary and salty snacks instead of healthy snacks.
According to research conducted by leading healthy snack brand graze, the nation experienced a snacking crisis, with eight out of 10 Brits admitting to snacking up to six times a day throughout the lockdown starting in March 2020. This experience caused drastic changes not only to our behaviours, but also to our waistlines. Over half of Brits admits they’ve gained weight, due in part to excessive snacking on unhealthy treats and lack of physical exercise.
With the UK overindulging in crisps, biscuits, ice creams and chocolate, it’s time to read our guide to choosing healthy snacks at home, with recipes, best buys and nutrition tips to keep you satiated and slim.
Healthy snack ideas and recipes
According to registered nutritionist, Rob Hobson, snacking isn’t a bad thing. “A healthy diet is all about balance and choosing to eat a wide variety of foods from different food groups. Understanding your hunger and fullness means you won’t end up getting ravenously hungry and devouring the whole kitchen – and healthy snacks are an important part of this equation.” With this in mind, we’ve got easy snacking ideas to reach for when those cravings for cookies kick in…
Easy snack ideas
Rob Hobson suggests that you “structure the day, so you have three main meals alongside mindful and nourishing snacks. Pre-portioned snacks, like nuts, pumpkin seeds or pulses, are also a great way to enjoy a healthy, crunchy snack without worrying about calories.”
If you’re wondering how to cram more fruit and veg into your diet, using fresh fruit or veggies as homemade snacks is ideal for packing in more nutrients. Take a look at our guide to eat more fruit and veg without even realising!
Apple slices with peanut butter + Greek yogurt
It may sound simple, but PT and blogger Zanna Van Dijk recommends apple slices with cinnamon and a tablespoon of natural peanut butter. “Fruit such as apples provides carbohydrates to boost your energy levels, and a source of fibre, while peanut butter helps to add healthy fats and a dose of protein which keeps you feeling full. The spice adds tons of flavour, and current research even suggests that it can regulate blood sugar levels, so dig in!”
The fitstagrammer also suggests using Greek yogurt, which supports muscle growth and repair. “You can add flavour by stirring through a dash of honey for carbohydrates and sprinkling on some nuts or sunflower seeds for crunch and healthy fats. Delicious!”
Toasted sweet potato + fruit smoothies
As a great source of carbohydrates, sweet potato is considered a superfood for a reason, but have you ever thought about toasting it? “Sweet potato toast with peanut butter or a little olive oil and some seeds is my new favourite power snack,” says nutritionist Rick Hay. “I love it, as it gives you a healthy energy boost that has a protein element to it, meaning that it helps to keep you satisfied for longer.”
Rick’s also a big fan of nutrient density – he advises making a smoothie by blitzing together spinach (known for its energy-boosting magnesium) with a couple of dates (which provide fibre), half a banana, 200ml of rice or almond milk and a teaspoon of cacao powder.
10 snack ideas to stay slim
Try these slim-snacks that are full of flavour, with fewer calories:
- Raw veg crudités with a healthy dip such as hummus or guacamole.
- Two whole-grain crackers with one tablespoon of nut butter.
- Wholegrain cereal with skimmed milk.
- Full-fat Greek yogurt with nuts, berries, coconut and cinnamon.
- Almond butter on celery.
- Mackerel paté with crudités.
- Apple slices (leave the skin on for a fibre boost!) with nut butter.
- Boiled eggs and olives.
- Banana milkshake with semi-skimmed milk.
- Homemade popcorn with a sprinkling of chilli powder.
Healthy snack recipes
Lily Soutter’s low-sugar peanut and chia balls
- 90g rolled oats
- 150g Pip & Nut or Meridian peanut butter
- 2 tbsp cacao powder
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until fully combined. Roll the mix into equal bite sizes and store in the fridge for later.
Tip: Swap the honey for agave nectar or maple syrup to make these vegan!
Cecilia Harris’ chia seed pudding
Cecilia Harris, head PT at Results Wellness Lifestyle, has a few go-tos when it comes to energising bites. “I’ll have a handful of almonds, which are high in the mineral magnesium that is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy. Chia seed pudding is a particularly good choice if you’re in need of a mental boost!”
- 1 to 2 tbsp of chia seeds
- 240ml of almond milk
- 2 tbsp cacao powder
- 60ml of agave syrup
- 1 small banana
- Cacao nibs
- Mix the chia seeds, cacao, agave syrup and nut milk in a bowl and pop in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) until it forms a gel.
- Whisk the mixture once or twice during the standing time to prevent the seeds from clumping together.
- Once it’s set, you can either serve it cold with chopped banana and cacao nibs on top, or during winter months, you can heat it gently in a pan (not to boiling), and serve.
Julie Montagu’s cacao snack balls
Yogi and nutritionist Julie Montagu recommends her cacao snack balls from her latest book Superfoods Superfast. These balls use cacao, which, as Julie explains, contain one of the highest concentrations of magnesium, helping with energy levels and combatting fatigue. “This superfood is also considered a natural anti-depressant as it contains dopamine, serotonin and phenylethylamine, which all help with mental support.”
- 80g cashews
- 80g walnut halves
- 5 tbsp raw cacao powder (plus
- extra for dusting)
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp chia seeds
- 2 tsp flaxseed
- Blitz the ingredients together in a food processor or blender.
- Transfer to a bowl and use your hands to roll the mixture into 10-12 balls.
- Dust with cacao powder and refrigerate, ready to grab when you need a boost – watch your energy soar!
Best buys for snack time
While reaching for something out of the snack cupboard used to be an impulse, we can now actively plan what convenient snacks we’re going to want and need. Just as you subscribe to Netflix for your favourite series, you can sign up to snack delivery services and have boxes sent straight to your door, with companies such as Graze, The Vegan Kind and Primal offering healthy alternatives to fulfil all your pre-empted snacking needs. And it’s not just our planning around snacks that has changed: rather than them being eaten to fill a small hole between meals, people are sourcing theirs for a nutritional boost.
“Retailers have made huge adaptations to their products as consumers are wanting healthier alternatives, but aren’t willing to compromise on taste,” says Gracie Tyrell, head of brand and co-founder of Squirrel Sisters. “People want their snacks to taste delicious and contain ingredients that are good for them, so they satisfy their cravings, as well as their health.”
If you’re on the lookout for a tasty snack you can buy from the supermarket, have a look at our guide to 10 healthy shop-bought snacks.
Ingredients to watch out for
According to Rob Hobson, it’s wise to watch out for hidden sugar. “Snacks that contain a healthy mix of fats, protein and good carbohydrates will help you feel sustained for longer than chocolate bars that can result in a sugar crash. A snack such as Graze’s Protein Oat Bites are a fantastic option, as they have 45 percent less sugar than your average cereal bar, are fibre-rich, and contain no artificial ingredients such as colours, flavours or preservatives.
“It’s also best to avoid snacks with empty calories by choosing options that are wholesome, delicious and have a nutritional benefit. For example, crunchy veg that’s high in fibre is a smart swap for crisps.”
With the huge variety of brands that offer a selection of snacking options, you might be surprised to learn that old school crisps giant, Walkers is the UK’s fifth most popular snack brand (YouGov). So, where is the snacking industry heading? To more simple and natural products, according to Uxshely Carcamo, founder of The Food Psychology Clinic. “With the amount of sugar that’s contained in foods, simple snacks, such as nuts, will become more and more popular. You can’t deny the consumer demand for healthier snacking options, so hopefully this will drive businesses to create products that are lower in sugar and higher in nutrition.”
Nutritional therapist Beanie Robinson agrees. She thinks that as we become more educated about highly processed products, whole food snacks will adapt to what we want. “Snacks that balance macronutrients can promote stable blood sugar levels, and are satiating and tasty, so they’re bound to be hitting our supermarket shelves soon.” Watch this space.