Snack Makeovers

Snack Makeovers

Contributed by Eve Persak, Nutrition Advisor, MS RD CNSC CSSD

Whether you’re a serial snacker on a mission to trim that muffin top or a nighttime nibbler trying to get on the health bandwagon, there’s no need to eliminate all snacks from your diet. Instead of going the ‘all or nothing’ way, start small.  

Here are a few simple swaps that will help you steer clear of the unhealthy stuff – and unnecessary calories - while adding on nutritional value, so you can snack sensibly without the extra side of guilt!

The Snack – French fries from fast food joints

The Swap – Baked sweet potato fries

Why it’s better:

  • Rich in beta-carotene

This plant-based orange phytochemical plays a vital role in eye health and aids in reducing the risk of cancer.

  • Less total fat

Starchy root vegetables soak up the oil when deep-fried. Baking uses substantially less oil, so you’ll get the flavour and crunch, without the excess calories and fat.

  • Less salt

Most fast food places are heavy-handed when it comes to salt. Streamline your sodium intake by adding just a pinch or two of natural sea salt after baking. Alternatively, use sodium-free flavourings like chili peppers, cinnamon, curry powder, or dried Italian herbs. A diet low in sodium can help to lower or avoid high blood pressure, as well as prevent water retention.

The Snack – Bakery biscuits and cookies 

The Swap – Dried fruit and nut bars

Why it’s better:

  • Less additives

Most dried fruit and nut bars rely on the natural sweetness of dried fruits or honey for flavour, and exclude refined sugars, synthetic stabilisers, preservatives or flavourings.

  • Free from flour

It’s a great alternative for individuals sensitive to gluten or those switching to a grain-free diet.

  • Rich in fibre

Baked goods are usually made with refined flours and sugars, which have negligible fibre content. Dried fruit, nuts, and seeds, on the other hand, are high in fibre, which helps to promote digestive health.

  •  Improved fat profile

Nuts and seeds offer heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which are often lacking in baked goods. Many convenience store goods also contain partially hydrogenated oils or harmful trans fats that are linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.


The Snack - Microwave popcorn

The Swap – Stovetop or air-popped popcorn

Why it’s better:

  •  Healthier ingredients

Stovetop or air-popped popcorn do not contain artificial butter flavourings or synthetic yellow dyes. Unlike most microwave popcorns, they’re not loaded with synthetic or low-quality butters or processed oil blends.

  • Non-carcinogenic

Chemicals from the microwave popcorn bags degrade with the heat and produce harmful carcinogenic compounds that can leach into your popcorn. 

  •  Premium quality

When you make your own popcorn, there’s the option to use healthy and high-quality cold-pressed coconut oil, clarified butter or ghee. You can also adjust the amount of salt to meet your flavour preference.


The Snack – Fruit candies

The Swap - Dried fruits

Why it’s better:

  • No unnecessary nasties

Satisfy your sweet tooth while avoiding artificial sweeteners, dyes, preservatives or pesticides. Go organic for high quality dried fruits that are all natural.

  •  Rich in nutrients

Dried fruits have natural plant pigments with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties for immune support and disease prevention. Dried fruits also offer vitamins and minerals that support vital physiological processes.


The Snack – Oil- or honey-roasted cocktail nuts or peanuts

The Swap – Raw or dried nuts

Why it’s better:

  •  Rich in good fats

Raw or dried nuts are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Retains nutrients

High-heat cooking can degrade the fragile antioxidants and micronutrients. To reap more health benefits, snack on unprocessed nuts instead.

  •   Lower in calories

Cooking nuts increases the calorie count per serving and adds oils of a less healthful variety – highly processed vegetable blends. Processed nuts are also often heavily salted, coated with granulated sugars or syrups, which add to the calorie count while raising blood pressure and sugar levels.   


The Snack:  Butter and sugar buns, kaya toast and jelly doughnuts

The Swap: Whole grain, nut butter and fruit sandwiches  

Why it’s better:

  • Aids in weight loss efforts

Trading refined white flour for whole-grain breads adds fibre and B vitamins to your diet. The fibre keeps blood sugar levels stable so you’ll stay satiated. The B vitamins boost metabolism and promote weight loss.

  • Heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory

Replacing saturated fats such as those in processed butters, with plant-based mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated oils in nut butters can reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart diseases.

  • Boost gut health

Opt for fresh fruits such as sliced strawberries, banana, grapes or even homemade fruit purees, over refined sugars or gelatinised sugary spreads including kaya or jelly preserves. The natural enzymes and fibre in fruits promote digestive health.


The Snack: Deep-fried white flour puffs and potato crisps

The Swap: Baked, roasted, or dried vegetable, grain and legume chips

Why it’s better:

  • Same satisfying crunch, more nutrients

Kale, spinach and broccoli crisps offer just as much crunch as any other thin crisp, but boast minerals such as iron and calcium, as well as fibre. Root vegetable chips – from yams, pumpkins, beets to carrots – are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals including beta-carotene and betalains.

  • Energy boost

Snacks made with whole grains (corn, quinoa) and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, soy and mung beans) are chock-full of protein and fibre – both of which keep you satiated for a longer period of time while prolonging energy release.