Because as delicious as your 3pm banana bread is, it isn’t benefiting your health or your bank account.
Picture this: you’ve planned yourself a ‘perfect’ day of healthy eating. You might’ve meal prepped overnight oats for breakfast, have a tuna salad packed for lunch and have already pre-chopped your veggies to throw into a quick chicken and rice stir fry when you get home for dinner. But when the 3pm hunger pangs strike, you’ve left yourself high and dry without a healthy snack option in sight. So, you head to the nearest café for an iced coffee and a muffin. Sound familiar?
But it’s not hard (or expensive!) to be snack-smart. It’s time to put down your expensive café muffin, buttery banana bread and overpriced smoothie and listen up. Here are some of my favourite nutritious and economical snack options to tie you over to your next meal.
1. A piece of fresh fruit
Fruit is my go-to when I’m feeling like something sweet. Sure, there’s natural sugar in fruit, but it’s also loaded with fibre and a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Opt for seasonal produce as that’s usually what’s cheapest.
At the moment, my favourite in-season fruit is a delicious, juicy peach.
Cost = $0.56
2. Three multigrain crispbreads with a tomato and a slice of low-fat cheese
This snack will keep you feeling fuller for longer, thanks to the winning combo of fibre in the crispbreads and protein in the cheese.
Not only does it satisfy your hunger, it’ll also contribute a serve of grains, a serve of veggies and half a serve of dairy or alternatives. This is one nutrient-packed snack.
Cost = $1.31
3. A handful of nuts
Most people think nuts are expensive. While that might be the case when you consider the price per kilo, you’re only recommended to have a tiny amount. Thirty grams, to be precise.
Nuts are so good for you – they’ve got healthy fats to keep your ticker happy, protein to assist muscle growth and repair and fibre for a healthy gut. Those healthy fats, however, make this snack a little higher in the kilojoule stakes – which is why you should stick to only a small handful a day.
I’ve always got almonds sitting in my pantry, but you can choose any nut you like! Just make sure they’re unsalted to minimise your sodium intake.
Cost = $0.44
While some yoghurts are laden with added sugar and could basically be a dessert, others are powerhouses brimming with nutrition.
The trick is to buy a plain, natural yoghurt and sweeten it yourself. Checking the nutrition panel and comparing sugar per 100 grams is a handy way to choose the healthiest one. You could also use the Health Star Rating to compare different yoghurts.
Buying in bulk can reduce the cost, too; I opt for a 1kg tub and portion it out throughout the week.
I love low-fat Greek style yoghurt with some frozen berries on top.
Cost = $1.74
5. Veggie sticks and dip
You hear dietitians raving on and on about why people need to eat more veggies, but there really is a good reason for it. There is so many health benefits, not to mention they’re packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
One of the easiest ways to get in more veg is to turn them into snacks. Because they’re low in energy, you can eat a substantial amount of them to fill up without bumping up your kilojoule intake too much.
Tomatoes pair perfectly with light ricotta cheese on crackers, celery and PB are a match made in heaven and carrots are great to munch on their own.
My personal favourite veggie-based snack is cucumber and a tablespoon of hummus – simple, delicious and healthy.
Cost = $1.27
6. A hard-boiled egg
Eggs really are a ‘superfood’ – and not the kind in fancy packaging plastered with every health claim under the sun.
They’re a great source of quality protein and healthy fats. They’re also full of nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, B12 and iron.
The Heart Foundation recommends six to seven eggs per week is fine as part of a healthy diet. The old myth about cholesterol in eggs has been debunked; the cholesterol in food actually barely effects our blood cholesterol. So, get cracking!
Cost = $0.32
7. Roasted chickpeas
One of my favourites when you’re feeling like something crunchy.
Sure, you can buy store bought varieties – but making your own is a little thriftier AND you get to have some fun playing around with flavours. I love plain roasted chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil.
Not only are they deliciously moreish, half a cup counts as a serve of veggies and a whole cup counts as a serve of protein.
Cost = $0.80 a can
8. A mini tin of salt-reduced baked beans
Beans provide quality carbs for long lasting energy and protein and fibre to keep you feeling full.
A small tin of salt-reduced baked beans are a great start, but you could even try making your own to control the salt, sugar and fat that is added.
Most of us don’t actually eat enough legumes (the wider food group that contains beans), but did you know they are protective against chronic diseases? The Grains and Legumes Nutrition council states that higher consumption of legumes is actually associated with a reduced risk of health issues like heart disease and some cancers.
Talk about a superfood!
Cost = $1.10
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.
Know someone who would find this interesting? Share this article with them! Click the Facebook icon on the top of the page.
These yummy lunch box treats are sweetened with apple and carrot, so there’s no nasties.