Smarter snacking

Become the José Mourinho of food and make substitutions that count…

Small changes in what you eat and the amount of exercise you take can make a surprising difference to how you feel. 

The British Dietetic Association suggest some smart swaps which add variety, provide more nutrients and save calories. And they add up. If you’re interested in weight-loss, just these six swaps could help you shed up to a pound of fat (3500 calories) a week, every week. No hassle.

TAKE OFF: Fried bacon, egg, sausage, tomatoes & hashbrowns
BRING ONGrilled bacon, sausage & tomatoes, poached egg, wholemeal toast 
SAVE: 56g of fat and 463 calories

TAKE OFF: Fried bacon, egg, sausage, tomatoes & hashbrowns
BRING ON: Wholegrain breakfast cereal, semi-skimmed milk, glass of unsweetened orange juice
SAVE: 68g of fat and 466 calories

TAKE OFFStandard BLT sandwich
BRING ON: BLT with reduced-fat mayo and lean bacon
SAVE: 25g of fat and 326 calories

TAKE OFF: Steak pie and chips
BRING ON: Shepherd's pie and veg
SAVE: 22g of fat and 268 calories

TAKE OFF: 150g whole milk creamy yoghurt
BRING ON: Low-fat yoghurt (which can still taste creamy!)
SAVE: 5g of fat and 99 calories

TAKE OFF: half-pint full-cream milk
BRING ON: half-pint semi-skimmed milk
SAVE: 6g of fat and 57 calories

What about snacks?

If you don’t increase your overall calorie intake, then eating little and often is not a bad policy as it helps keep your metabolism ticking over nicely. In other words, there’s no problem with snacking as such. 

The French have a ‘goûter’, a little snack late afternoon which means they eat a smaller evening meal - bread with plain chocolate or fruit is popular.

The problem comes when snacking between meals – especially when you’re not hungry - leads to eating too much.

Even one small, daily snack that’s surplus to requirements will show on your waistline. Two plain biscuits or a can of sugary drink or a bag of crisps each break time could each see you put on around half a stone (3-4kg) a year. In real money, this could add four or more inches to your waistline. 

Save these for an occasional treat. There are plenty of feel-good alternatives: fruit (bananas and apples travel well), low-calorie drinks (water or tea), nuts (unsalted), baked rather than fried crisps or unsweetened yoghurt.

Check your snack attack isn’t due to thirst - drink enough fluids to keep your urine a pale straw colour, not dark yellow or brown. 

Some smarter snacking suggestions?
  • Swap a Danish pastry for a cereal bar and save 165 kcals while gaining extra vitamins, minerals and fibre! (Check the label.)
  • Swap a 34.5g bag of crisps for a 28g bag of reduced-fat crisps to save 55 kcals. (This may not seem like much, but do it three times and you’ve saved the same amount of calories as in a pint of 5% strength beer.) 
  • Swap a small carton of fruit juice for a glass of water and save 94 kcals as well as protecting your teeth.
  • Swap a can of sugary fizzy drink for a diet version and save 135 kcals while also reducing potentially harmful blood sugar swings.

Smart snacking saves money too - a supermarket banana is 20p, a Danish at least a quid.

Beat a snack attack with physical activity – a brisk walk, a cycle ride, gardening, housework (vacuuming is good) or DIY. If you can’t get out and exercise, drinking water or herbal tea will take the edge off. 

What should I look for on the labels?

A snack is likely to represent a healthy option if, per 100g, it contains: less than 3g fat, less than 2g sugar and less than 0.25g salt (or less than 0.1g sodium)

A snack is best avoided if, per 100g, it contains: 20g or more fat, 10g or more sugar or 1.25g or more salt

For snacks with values in-between, handle with care.

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This content is wholly based on the Men's Health Forum's man manual Eat. Drink. Don't Diet. which was prepared in line with the NHS England Information Standard of which the MHF is a member. Follow the links for more information or to buy copies.


Date published 18/06/15
Date of last review 28/02/15
Date of next review 28/02/18

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