We answer your nutrition questions
Q. I am trying to find healthy snacks that I can nibble on during the day to control my weight without resorting to rice cakes and rabbit food. I’m thinking of pumpkin seeds and dried apricots. Are they good choices and can you come up with some others?
A. I am often asked about healthy snacking. High on the list of many people’s choices are things such as seeds, nuts and dried fruits. In moderation these are completely fine. Pumpkin seeds, for instance, give us zinc to support our immune systems and fertility, and are great for iron, needed for energy, and fibre for healthy digestion.
But 1tbsp has 91 calories, so graze on handfuls throughout the day and the calories mount up. The same goes for almonds (a source of bone-strengthening calcium), Brazil nuts (rich in selenium, a mineral we get too little of in a typical UK diet) and walnuts (good levels of omega-3 heart oils and ellagic acid, a potentially cancer-fighting supernutrient).
The bottom line is that nuts and seeds are healthy as long as you do not overdo the portions. If you chomp your way through a 100g bag, you can end up polishing off between 570 and 700 calories – more than a roast dinner, or two Mars bars.
The same goes for dried fruits. Apricots are partially, not fully, dried, with a slightly squashy texture, and while they do have useful antioxidants, bear in mind that while one fresh apricot weighing 40g has 12 calories, a 40g ready-to-eat apricot provides between 63 and 93. Eat a standard 250g pack and you can clock up 577 calories. You could eat 48 fresh apricots for the same calories. Banana chips may seem like a virtuous alternative to biscuits, but they are banana slices deep-fried, then coated with a sweet glaze (and a few preservatives added) to make them extra appetising. So it will not surprise you to learn that a 100g bag has 511 calories and more than 30g (almost 3tbsp) of oil. A couple of ginger-nut biscuits, with just 88 calories and a couple of grams of fat, would be a better choice.
“Yoghurt”-coated raisins are a similar trap. A 250g bag contains raisins that have been dipped in a mix of sugar, vegetable fat, whey, modified starch and emulsifiers (with not an ounce of real yoghurt in sight) – and at 1,010 calories, more than half a woman’s maximum daily fat intake.
“Good” snacks to try:
Peanut butter on a slice of granary toast 160 calories
Naturally Oaty low GI oat bar (www.naturally-chocolate.com) 134 calories
Small bowl of sugar-free muesli (www.rudehealthfoods.co.uk) with a grated apple 250 calories
Ready-made fruit salad (fresh or canned) with yoghurt 200 calories
30g bar of Green & Black’s dark chocolate 193 calories
Healthy-sounding snacks to avoid
Drinks such as smoothies, which give you liquid calories, but do not fill you up, 250ml bottle Up to 200 calories
Popcorn (coated, not plain), 100g 593 calories
Flapjack, 100g bar 493 calories
Pretzels, 100g bag 420 calories
Trail mix, 100g bag 432 calories