How to Choose Packaged Snacks to Fuel Productivity
For busy people on-the-go, packaged food items can be beneficial to overall health & energy levels.
I always like to say that there's room within a healthy diet for all kinds of food, not just the fresh, natural variety. I believe that setting reasonable expectations when you're short on time (and energy) is key.
If you rely on packaged snacks for fuel on a regular basis, there are a few things to consider when choosing products. Improving the quality of the foods we eat most often is one step towards better health.
My goal for this article is to empower you to make informed choices while shopping because it's easy to be swayed by marketing, flashy packaging & calorie count. Selecting a "healthy" snack product goes far beyond the obvious, taking into consideration the nutrients that impact our bodies the most.
Next time you're standing at the shelf, comparing products, use these pointers to inform your evaluation and ultimate choice:
Check to see how long the ingredient list is: it's fairly safe to say that the longer the list, the more processing has been involved. A shorter list of ingredients could mean that the food has more real ingredients and is closer to being "natural" than others. Shorter lists point to higher quality (usually). In short, try to keep it simple!
Make sure you recognize the ingredients: if you look down the list and start to see words that can't possibly be English, this is a warning sign. Proceed with caution. Products that are highly processed, refined and stripped of their nutrients, typically contain chemicals & additives that are not beneficial to our health.
Check the sugar content: Sugar is everywhere so it's important to be aware of your consumption because every little bit adds up. When you're looking for a supportive snack, something lower in sugar is better for satisfaction & prolonged energy. One of the key characteristics of a functional snack is that it's blood sugar balancing, meaning it's low in sugar and includes a few other supportive nutrients like fibre and protein (see below!)
Check the protein content: Protein is a functional nutrient that is very important at snack time. When chosen wisely, a snack (whether packaged or not) should include a couple grams of protein, at least. Most traditional snacks are carb-heavy, which provides quick fuel for energy, but this energy burns off quickly. Protein is helpful for slowing down the processing of carbs to glucose to ensure greater satiety & blood sugar control.
Check the fibre content: Another very supportive nutrient, fibre is important to consume regularly throughout the day for blood sugar control, gut health, good digestion + satiety. Products that are very low in fibre are often highly refined and stripped of their natural goodness and aren't as supportive as they could be.
Consider allergies & sensitivities and always read the "may contain" statement under the ingredients: This statement, usually in bold font, is very important to read & digest. If you missed something in the ingredient list, or didn't recognize one of the words, this line may help to clarify things for you. Even if you don't have any allergies, it's empowering to know exactly what you could be eating.
Of course there are other nutrients to consider like sodium, fat content, vitamins & minerals, but the above list is a great starting point for anyone looking to improve the overall quality of their packaged snacks.
I encourage you to make your final decision by assessing the quality + function of a product while making sure it's right for you as an individual.
(Btw, if calories are important to you, by all means, factor this into your decision making as well!)
If you're working from home and looking for simple, family-friendly, homemade snack recipes, check out my recipes page (here).
Ciara Morin, R.H.N.