Snacks; do you know the healthy ones?

Did you know that the ideal snack should be able to provide either fibre or protein? Well, according to nutritionists, this should be so in order to make one full easily, and give them plenty of energy without consuming too many calories.

Joseph Uwiragiye, head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital Kigali (CHUK), says people should avoid snacks that are rich in sugar and refined carbohydrates because they can boost blood sugar levels, thus exposing them to non-communicable diseases.

He says that snacks are supposed to be eaten between meals and should help one feel full, thus preventing them from feeling hungry always, and aiding in managing weight.

He adds that healthy snacks should be whole grains. Also, low in calories, salt, and added sugar. Instead, go for fresh foods like fruits and vegetables.

WHY SNACKS ARE GOOD

Uwiragiye says that healthy snacks boost health. However, they shouldn’t be eaten too much.

“Snacking in-between meals can keep one from overeating at meal times and help manage weight, thus keeping them from developing non-communicable diseases that always result from that kind of lifestyle,” he says.

Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Cabinet Wellness Center, says healthy snacks provide energy that will ensure that one exercises without any problem.

When it comes to children, he says, snacks help provide the much needed energy for growth.

He notes that eating a variety of snacks gives one extra vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants (substances that help prevent cell damage), and other disease-fighting nutrients.

“Choosing low-calorie snacks can help one maintain a healthy weight. Also, avoiding high-calorie sports drinks and packaged, processed snacks, likes chips or cookies, is ideal,” he says.

Kamanzi says that opting for a glass of water after snacking is advisable. He notes that in most cases, people will always go for sweetened drinks whenever they snack, which should be avoided.

He adds that if one has diabetes, they should always pay attention to the number of carbohydrates in their snacks, and this can be achieved by talking to a dietitian.

HOW TO SNACK

He says that snacking at least three times a day is ideal; however, limiting the calorie intake is important and one should opt for snacks that provide fewer carbohydrates and small amounts of fats.

Uwiragiye says that when snacking while working, people tend to eat fast.

“When this happens, one is likely to eat more than they need, thus leading to weight gain, which is unhealthy. When you eat while trying to work, the body is going through the motions, but the brain isn’t fully aware one is eating,” he says.

He says that studies have shown that when one snacks because of stress or boredom (not out of hunger), the calories they consume tend to be extra. In other words, they don’t compensate by eating less at the next meal or waiting longer until the next meal.

He advises that one should, therefore, spare a few minutes to snack, as it doesn’t require a lot of time, like heading to a restaurant.

WHAT TO AVOID

Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says that normally, bad snacks are always convenient and portion controlled, but in most cases, they are not satisfying, and they do not help control blood sugar levels.

He says that they contain white flour and sugar and they are low in nutrients and fibre.

“In fact, some may seem like a quick fix for one’s hunger, but in real sense, they prove little or less nutritional value. Potato chips are one of them and people should avoid them,” he cautions.

He adds that these bad snacks are also high in sodium, whereby high intake increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart diseases.

He explains that this is because high sodium holds excess fluid in the body, and that creates an added burden on the heart.

Also, he notes that that too much sodium will increase one’s risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer and kidney disease.

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