Inside Scoop: Does walking around the snack section leave you overwhelmed? Here are 10 healthy ingredients to look for to help you snack smarter.
Does walking around the snack section at the grocery store have you very confused, and maybe a little bit overwhelmed?
There’s too much to choose from, and it seems that the number of prepackaged snacks available increases day by day.
From bars to cookies, crisps and chips, we’re all looking for something quick and easy to grab while we’re on-the-go, and if it’s tasty and healthy, even better.
Though natural, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, low carb and sugar-free labels have become synonymous with healthy, it’s not always the case. It has become very hard to distinguish a snack option that is nutritious vs. one that’s highly processed.
When you are shopping for healthier snack alternatives, it’s important to not only look at the front of the package where most of those fancy marketing terms are, but to also read the full ingredient list in the back. This is the area that will help you decide whether it’s worth to pick up an item or toss it.
To help you snack smarter, here are 10 things to look out for on the ingredient list that will assist you in buying healthier snacks for you and your family.
10 INGREDIENTS TO HELP YOU SNACK SMARTER
Beans make a wonderful snack ingredient on their own when roasted, in savoury options like chips and crackers (like our favourite Beanitos below), and as a base for delicious desserts like brownies (in place of refined flours). They’re rich in B vitamins and important minerals such as calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
Beans are also high in plant-based protein and fiber which will help you feel fuller for longer. Compared to snacks that contain white flour or white corn, they are much better for keeping your blood sugars stabilized, and offering nutrient density.
COCONUT, AVOCADO & EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OILS
Many processed snacks contain vegetable oils such as soy, corn and sunflower that have been heated to high temperatures and contain a high amount of omega 6 fatty acids. Our body doesn’t make omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, so we must obtain them from our diet in a balanced ratio of 4:1.
In the absence of sufficient omega 3s, the overconsumption of omega 6 fats has been linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Most of the omega 6 in our diet comes from processed vegetable oils in prepackaged meals.
To snack smarter, look for virgin or raw oils that have been processed using cold-pressed or low heat methods. Coconut, avocado and olive oil are the top ones to look for on the ingredient list.
One of our favourite ingredients, dark chocolate, is not only delicious on its own but as part of bars, trail mixes and other packaged snacks. The one important thing to remember is to always choose dark chocolate that’s 70%+ and the first ingredient should never be sugar.
Dates are hands down our favourite way to sweeten snacks. They make a perfect base for snack and energy bars, raw brownies, caramel sauce, cheesecake crust and as a sweetener for dressings, smoothies and sauces. Look for smarter snack options sweetened with dates instead of corn syrup, refined white sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Other dried fruits such as figs, apricots, goji berries, prunes and cranberries can be quite nutritious as well. They are high in antioxidants and fiber and are a wonderful natural sweetener in snacks, bars and trail mixes. Make sure to choose sulfite-free fruits that have no added sugar.
While dried fruits are nutritious, they’re still very high in sugar as all the water from the fruit has evaporated. You’d want to be mindful of your portions and keep servings to a small handful.
Found in many sugar-free snacks, erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol that is almost as sweet as sugar with a fraction of the calories, and with no known effect on blood sugar or insulin. Sugar alcohols are becoming an increasingly common ingredient in products that are labeled as ‘sugar-free’ or ‘no added sugar’. But be careful because not all sugar alcohols are created equal; maltitol, for example, is known to cause spikes in blood sugar levels similar to regular sugar.
Most sugar alcohols are high in FODMAPs and may cause digestive issues in sensitive individuals. While erythritol is the safest, and is unlikely to cause any side effects, if you experience digestive upset make sure to stop using it.
HONEY/ MAPLE SYRUP
Raw honey and maple syrup are traditional sweeteners that have been used by ancient cultures for hundreds of years. They’re high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, and much better alternatives to highly refined white sugar and corn syrup. Choose snack options with more natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup.
It’s important to stay mindful as they are still considered added sugars and should be limited to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women, and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
Nuts are high in healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and beneficial antioxidants to help protect against free radical damage. The regular consumption of raw nuts may help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation as well as protect against diabetes and heart disease.
Choose snacks with a combination of raw or dry roasted nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts.
Seeds add a nutritional boost to both sweet and savoury snacks. They are high in fiber, and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats. Look for sunflower and pumpkin seeds, as well as chia, hemp and flax seeds on the ingredient list.
VEGAN SPROUTED/ FERMENTED PROTEIN
Many prepackaged snack options including protein bars and shakes contain protein powder. When looking at the ingredient list, choose plant-based options that are either fermented or sprouted. This makes them more easily digestible and their nutrients more bioavailable for absorption. Protein blends with pea, brown rice, and hemp are great options.
Are there any other ingredients that you look for to help you snack smarter? Let us know below.