Smart snacking for active people

Three square meals aren’t always enough if you’re constantly on the go. Smart snacking can help you top up energy levels so you get the most out of your workouts and recover optimally, too. Here’s my top ten…

Almonds 'n' apricots
Why? Almonds are high in protein and fibre as well as being low GI, a good source of magnesium and rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant. Dried apricots are rich in carotenes, which may lower the risk of cancers of the throat and lungs. Apricots also provide potassium, iron, calcium, silicon, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Interestingly dried apricots have a far greater nutritional value than fresh ones because the nutrient content is so concentrated. Gram for gram, dried apricots have 12 times the iron, seven times the fibre and five times the vitamin A of fresh ones. The best way to eat this snack is to impale the almonds in the apricots!
Portion size: 6-8 apricots and 20-25 almonds provides approximately 250 calories

Yoghurt and honey
Why? Yoghurt is low in fat, high in calcium and good for your gut. A recent study also found that people who got their calcium from yoghurt rather than other dairy sources lost more weight around the tummy area. Opt for low-fat, unflavoured varieties with probiotic bacteria, and add a touch of sweetness with honey. According to research presented to the American Chemical Society, honey raises blood levels of protective antioxidants. It may also be a useful diet addition for people with high cholesterol. In research, using honey instead of sugar or an artificial sweetener reduced total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
Portion size: 1 120g pot of yoghurt with 1 tablespoon honey equals 140 calories

Apples'n'pears
Why? Well for starters, it qualifies as two ticks on your five-a-day target! Apples are high in pectin, a soluble fibre, and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that can reduce cholesterol damage. They have a high water content, which helps you feel satiated. Apples are also a good source of vitamin C. Pears are high in potassium and also a good source of fibre and vitamin C. A study in 2003 found that women who consumed 3 apples or pears a day for 3 months lost more weight than women who had a similar calorie-controlled diet but without the fruit.
Portion size: 1 apple and 1 pear 125 calories

A homemade or Innocent smoothie or similar (ie. no added sugar, sweetener or additives)
Why? While a fruit juice counts towards your all-important fruit and veg target, it doesn't offer any fibre at all. A smoothie, on the other hand, contains the pulp of the fruit and not just the juice and provides an array of vitamins and minerals. (For maximum health benefits, choose a berry-rich flavour.) It also boosts hydration, of course - and research from Penn State University found that liquid foods help you feel full longer, making you less likely to overeat later on.
Portion size: one serving

Dark chocolate
Why? Chocolate has an unnecessarily bad press in health terms: yes, a nougat or candy-filled milk chocolate bar the size of a brick isn't the best choice, but you can eat good quality chocolate as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Plain chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids is a good source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, the type found in green tea and red wine. And while chocolate is high in fat, it consists of both saturated types, stearic and palmitic acids, and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil. A number of studies have found that chocolate's main fat, stearic acid, has a neutral effect on the 'bad' LDL cholesterol, too. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, has twice the magnesium of milk chocolate and more iron. And there's no doubt about it, chocolate makes us feel good! While dark chocolate is a poor source of calcium, don't wash it down with a glass of milk to make up the shortfall - researchers believe that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate.
Portion size: A 20g bar or chunk is 100 calories. (Green & Blacks do 20g snack size bars)

Peanut butter on crispbreads
Why? It's the perfect combination of protein, fat and carbohydrate - with lots of fibre. While peanut butter is high in fat, it's the unsaturated kind - and peanuts are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Peanut butter is also rich in protein (especially good for vegetarians) and a good source of magnesium. Opt for rye crispbreads, which are low in salt, high in fibre and have a low GI, so you won't get an energy high followed by a crash.
Portion size: 2 teaspoons of peanut butter on 2 rye crispbreads equals 180 calories

Hummus and crudites
A tasty, crunchy snack that's perfect if you've got cold storage nearby. Hummus is best when you make it yourself, but otherwise, opt for the reduced fat variety and you'll be helping yourself to vitamin E, manganese and disease-fighting garlic. Dip in with raw veg, such as beta-carotene-rich carrot sticks and potassium-rich celery, to boost fibre intake.
Portion size: 50g reduced fat hummus with veggie sticks 125 calories

Seeds and raisins mix
Why? While seeds are high in fat, it is mostly healthy unsaturated fat, and since they weigh so little, you can get good nutritional benefits for few calories. Easy to eat on the run, too. Seeds are also high in protein and a good source of phytosterols, plant compounds which are believed to reduce cholesterol and enhance immune function. In a US Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry report, sunflower seeds proved to be the best source of phytosterols - as well as being a good source of magnesium, iron, copper, manganese and vitamin E. Pumpkin seeds contain cucurbitacins, a substance that appears to help prevent prostate enlargement. They are also a good source of zinc, magnesium and manganese and recent research suggests they might have anti-inflammatory properties useful in curbing the symptoms of arthritis. Add a handful of raisins, and you're upping your iron intake and potassium intake.
Portion size: A tablespoon each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and raisins equals 240 calories

Grapes and cheese
If you're a cheese lover, you are probably only too aware of its high saturated fat content. But it's not all bad: hard cheese, such as cheddar, is a great source of calcium and phosphorus, and one of the few good sources of the B vitamins B2 and B12 (especially important for non-meat eaters). And because of its strong taste, you only need a little. Eat with red grapes, and you're upping fibre and fruit intake. Grapes contain polyphenols, antioxidants which are helpful to the heart, and ellagic acid, a cancer-fighting phytochemical.
Portion size: 30g piece of cheddar and a handful of grapes, 180 calories

Avocado on toast
Avocado is something of a superfood - being rich in vitamin E, high in monounsaturated fats and a good source of potassium and vitamin B6 (which aids the process of serotonin synethesis, associated with good mood). Spread half a medium ripe avocado on a slice of wholemeal toast for a tasty, wholesome snack with a low GI and a healthy dose of fibre. If you like a spicy touch, sprinkle with a dash of Tabasco.
Portion size: half an avocado on 1 slice of bread, 220 calories

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