Healthy nutritious snack foods abound and they don't necessarily come in packs.

Snacking on healthy nutritious snack foods is not as hard as it sounds. Having healthy foods to eat in the house, and to take with us, isn't a difficult proposition.

What has made it harder than is should be is the way in which we now define the word 'snack'.

Snacks in Packs.

Snack has become synonymous with things in packs. 'Snack' size packets of chips. Processed foods advertised as great for 'school snacks'...muesli bars, fruit flavoured (emphasis on the flavoured) roll up sugary things, mini cakes and bakes, full of great numbers and added 'goodies' (yeh, right).

Some of these are even advertised as being healthy nutritious snack foods, but there aren't many that actually fulfill this role. They've been so processed that nutrients and goodness has to be added back via numbers and more processing.

This processing and packaging is supposed to made eating between meals healthy and convenient. Snacks in packs makes it easy to grab something on the run.

But really, how much harder is it to grab a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts...than the snack in the pack. As long as they're both in the cupboard, or the the fridge, the grabbing time is the same. Really the convenience factor is something that we've been convinced we need.

So, what is a snack?

A snack is a top-up, a mini meal, something that keeps you going till the next larger size meal. It isn't meant to be a complete meal. It's a small tummy filling, hunger reducing food.

This is one of the other traps we can fall into with snacks in packs. Snacks in packs are often high calorie, high fat, high sugar, high salt...small in size. They often don't make you feel like you've eaten very much at all, but there's enough energy (calories) in that snack that it should keep you going all day!

A snack doesn't have to supply your entire nutrient or calorie or fibre content for a day. Snacks can be used in different ways.

They are top-ups for your body, and top-ups of your nutritional needs, they should come from the same list of healthy foods to eat that you use for your meals.

Healthy nutritious snack foods come from the same group of foods that everything you eat comes from. The day-to-day foods that fulfill your nutritional needs. But we've started to view snacks as being from the range of extra, occasional foods that fill our supermarkets.

Instead snacks are something that should come from our everyday foods, because can be very helpful in losing weight and maintaining it.

Snacks stop you reaching the point of starving hunger where you're less likely to make healthy foods choices. Snacks are top-ups for things that you may be lacking on that day.

Snacks are top-ups

Healthy nutritious snack foods give you more than just calories...they give you what your body needs to function better.

I always seem to have difficulty keeping up my calcium intake. I don't eat as much cheese as I used to, and I've got a bit bored with the low fat yoghurt I used to love. Because I'm aware that I'm slipping in calcium, when I start looking for a snack early in the day, I've started making that snack low fat milk.

If I'm rushed that's exactly what it will be, a guzzled (yes, I know you're supposed to slowly consume your foods,and it does make a difference to how much you eat, but sometimes it's guzzle or go without) glass of milk. And I might grab a few almonds, or a wholegrain rice thin as I rush out the door.

This isn't a complete meal, but it's not supposed to be. Actually I don't often get a 'complete' anything, not a 'complete' balanced breakfast, not a 'complete' balanced lunch, not a 'complete' balanced dinner. I just try to make sure I've covered all the major food groups, and nutrients, with appropriate quantities by the end of the day...or sometimes two, without eating more than my body needs in energy.

Snacks are a way of staving off the hunger, and topping up on my nutritional needs. On top of that, my glass of milk and rice thin has less calories than a packet of chips, far more nutrients, and I actually feel like I've eaten. One snack pack of chips makes me want more, a processed cake or bake leaves my stomach feeling very unfulfilled, and neither of these is any faster to grab and eat than guzzled milk and a rice thin or fruit.

As an added bonus, I've saved my pocket...the milk and rice thin/fruit is a lot cheaper...I've taken a load off my arteries with less fat and salt...I've added a calcium rich food into my day...and I've kept my weight under control! If I'd had the 'pack snack' I still would have been hungry and would have put more energy into my body than I needed. Much better all round.

We need to redefine the snack...the healthy nutritious snack foods that come from the great abundance of healthy foods to eat that are available to us...and leave the occasional snack packs on the shelf, and only buy them occasionally.

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