Healthy snacks for all-day energy
Here are seven sweet and savoury healthy snack ideas that are quick, tasty and good for you - they even include chocolate!
When we're hungry and busy, it's all too easy to reach for the biscuit tin, or grab a bag of crisps.
The trouble is, these type of snacks are filled with hidden nasties like saturated fat, salt and sugar, and if you eat too many of them, they put you at higher risk of serious health problems.
Not only that but, while these sorts of foods will give you a short-term boost, you'll find your energy levels soon come crashing down.
Much better to choose a snack that's as good for you as it is tasty.
Lots of women avoid nuts because they think of them as fatty, but it's important to remember that nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats found in olive oil. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Need further persuasion? Studies have shown that people who eat nuts at least twice a week are less likely to gain weight than those who rarely eat them!
Choose a selection of different nuts to get the maximum benefits. Brazils are particularly rich in selenium, for example, whereas almonds are packed with flavonoids and vitamin E, and walnuts contain precious phenols (mostly in the skin) which act as antioxidants.
2. Dried fruit and seeds
Many cereal bars contain extra sugars. Instead, opt for sunflower seeds - great for omega 6 - and dried apricots (choose sulphate-free ones), raisins and packs that mix nuts and dried fruits such as cranberries. These are fantastic for iron, slow-release energy and calcium.
Do bear in mind that, while dried fruit is undoubtedly good for you, it's also high in sugar, so it's something to eat in small quantities.
3. A banana
With their very own packaging, bananas really are nature's very own fast food!
Bananas are a great source of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. They're also high in fibre and excellent for a sustained energy boost. If you want to up this energy boost even further, try having your banana with a few nuts as a snack!
Low in fat and calories but packed with nutrients, cruditÃ‚Â©s have to be the ultimate healthy snack, particularly when accompanied by a great dip.
Experiment with different combinations according to your preferences and what you have to hand. Cucumber is a good source of potassium, vitamin K and fibre (mostly from the skin so don't peel), red peppers are folate and vitamin C powerhouses and carrots are an exceptionally rich source of vitamin A.
The dip can be healthy too. Hummus is rich in protein and can help fight hunger cravings and balance blood sugar levels, while the iron content will boost your energy.
Guacamole is a good choice too, with avocados being packed with nutrients including oleic acid, a type of essential fatty acid.
5. An apple
Next time you're reaching for a bag of crisps, grab an apple instead. Apples are great appetite-suppressing foods because the fibre fills you up and turns off your appetite-control hormones before you overeat. Plus, apples contain various phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Oats are great for fibre, slow-release energy, and have cholesterol-lowering properties, plus B vitamins, vitamin E, iron and zinc. If you need a topping, try almond butter - high in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E.
7. Chocolate - yes, really!
Okay, we're not talking about gorging on chocolate bars here! But, if you've got a craving for something sweet, you could do a lot worse than pick a few squares of dark chocolate. Just make sure you pick a really good quality one with a high cocoa content.
Dark chocolate contains beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc, selenium and iron.
Don't go crazy though! Chocolate is still something to be enjoyed as an occasional treat.
Tips to avoid bad snacking habits
1. Keep hydrated. Sometimes when we think we're peckish, we're actually thirsty, so try a glass of water first.
2. Don't buy junk. If you don't have rubbish in the house, you can't eat it! Treats are fine in moderation, but having a stash in the cupboard will make you want to swoop a handful every time you pass.
3. Keep your fingers busy. If you associate watching a DVD with a bowl of popcorn, keep a bottle of water to hand instead.
4. Banish boredom. Do word puzzles on the fridge door to avoid nibbling while making the kids' tea, or keep a book of Sudoku in your bag for times out with the kids when you'd usually be tempted by a latte and biscuits.
What are your favourite healthy snacks? Let us know in the comments section below.