Britain has won the dubious accolade of coming top of a table of 10 European countries when it comes to eating unhealthy snacks.

41% of Britons admit to topping up with unhealthy snacks such as crisps, biscuits, cake and chocolate.  What’s more only 15% said they snacked on healthier options such as fruit, raw vegetables or yoghurt.

The research conducted by a food company that makes yoghurt, both natural and with added fruit, found this was well behind respondents in Spain and Greece.

Why do we snack?

The researchers found that these were the main reasons that Britons reach for a snack between meals:

  1. boredom: 41%
  2. an urge for an unhealthy treat: 31%
  3. a lack of energy: 25%
  4. stress: 20%

Making healthier food choices

I speak to many people who claim to eat a healthy diet when it comes to their main meals but so often this is undermined by their choices of snack foods.

Research has shown that if we can reduce sugar in our diet on a daily basis, then we are less likely to make unhealthy choices when choosing either a snack or our next meal.

This means reducing the amount of sugary carbohydrates we consume in breakfast cereals, white bread, pastries, cakes, fizzy drinks and sweets and processed foods.

Instead we should be opting for low GI (glycaemic index) foods, combining protein and healthy fats with our carbohydrates and making sure we are eating fibre in the form of vegetables (both raw and cooked) and fruits.

Hidden sugars

Many people are unaware of the hidden sugars found in foods especially those that are savoury and where you wouldn’t expect to find any sugar eg tomato sauces, soups, coleslaw and bread.  Did you know that  a 5oz serving of some 0% fat yogurts can contain as much five teaspoons of sugar!

Read the label

Reading labels is the best way to find out about hidden sugars.  All nutrition labels will state the amount of carbohydrates per 100g.  What you need to look for is ‘of which sugars’ and you should be aiming for about 2g per 100g of the food.  Also bear in mind how big your portion size is likely to be – often food manufacturers put unrealistically small portion sizes on their food packaging.

Remember also that so called ‘healthy’ drinks such as fruit juices or flavoured waters can be very high in sugars.

Some healthy snack ideas

The key to eating healthy snacks is to make sure that you have an appropriate snack to hand if you start feeling hungry at work, on the go or even after you have eaten a meal:

Nuts and seeds – one of my number one choices for snacking.  They contain good levels of protein and beneficial fats so provided you are not eating whole bag will make a healthy choice.  They are easily transportable in a small pot and can be kept in the desk drawer.

Hummous, cottage cheese or guacamole with plain oatcakes or vegetable sticks

Temperate climate fruits such as apples and pears, plums or citrus fruits but always eat with protein such as a few unsalted nuts or seeds

Nut butters spread thinly on crackers or rye bread (make sure you source sugar and salt free nut butters)

Plain bio live yoghurts with your own added fruits such as grated apple or pear or berries

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