Snacking (food or drink we have other than during main mealtimes), can be part of a healthy diet, provided we don't consume too many calories over the day and that in a day or week we choose a healthy balance of foods.

This article will look at snacks and body weight, how snacks can fit in to a healthy, balanced diet and give some tips and ideas for snack swaps and healthy snacking at work, home and on the go!

But first, here are some ideas to help you make better choices when snacking:

Top tips for healthy snacking

Research into the health effects of snacking and snacking behaviours (when, why and how we snack) is limited. However, the following tips may help you if you do include snacks in your diet to have the right overall energy intake and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

  • Watch the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugars in your snacks, as well as calorie content – look at the labels, for more information about reading food labels click here.
  • Replace snacks high in saturated fat, salt and/or sugars, like confectionary and biscuits, with healthier snacks, like unsalted nuts and plain popcorn, in your kitchen cupboards or desk drawer – if the snacks are there, it is all too easy to eat them. Not having these snacks within easy reach at home and at work may help you to select something healthier.
  • Portion control – to help maintain a healthy, balanced diet, consider the portion size of your snack (particularly if it is high in fat, saturated fat, salt and/or sugars). If you occasionally choose chocolate, crisps or biscuits try to split and pack a small portion out – like two squares of dark chocolate, two biscuits, a handful of crisps. Remember you can eat larger portions of fruit and veg as a snack!
  • Listen to hunger cues – before you reach for that biscuit on offer during a work meeting or try to break up the boredom or cheer yourself up by eating a snack, consider whether you are actual hungry. Although the research is limited, it has been suggested that listening carefully to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, rather than, for example, eating in response to your emotions, may help some people avoid overeating.
  • Number of snacks – keep an eye on the number of snacks you are eating during the day. If you are snacking several times a day, think about the meals you are eating and when. Aim for three regular meals per day.
  • Plan ahead – if you tend to need a mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon snack to satisfy your hunger until the next meal then planning ahead may help you to make sure these snacks are healthy and that overall your diet is nicely balanced.
  • Avoid shopping when hungry – there is some research suggesting that if you are hungry, you may be more likely to select less healthy snacks . You could also make a list of healthy snacks to buy to help your choices when you are in the store.

Next page: Incorporating snacks into a healthy, balanced diet - energy