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Healthy snacking is part of a heart-healthy diet.

Healthy snacking may help you get all the nutrients you need to protect you from heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. Nutritious snacks also keep you feeling energized throughout the day, especially helping you beat mid-morning and mid-afternoon fatigue. Snacking can stave off hunger and keep your metabolic rate up, which makes it an integral part of maintaining a healthy weight.

Snacks are meant to tide you over, not replace a meal, so it's important to keep portion sizes small.

Healthy choices

What you choose to snack on makes all the difference. As a general rule, it's best to opt for a snack that contains foods from at least two of the four food groups (vegetables and fruit, whole grains, milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives) in Canada's Food Guide. For example, half of a small whole-grain bagel with lower-fat cheese, or a small handful of nuts with a piece of fresh fruit, will boost your energy while also leaving you feeling satisfied longer.

By planning your snacks just as you would your meals, you avoid making unhealthy snack choices that may be high in salt, fat and sugar. Snacks such as potato chips, cookies, doughnuts and candy bars may actually sap your energy, while adding unnecessary calories. Be aware that so-called energy bars can be high in sugar and trans fats. Read the Nutrition Facts table on any snack foods and look for sugar content and trans fat ingredients such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Stock up

At home, stock your pantry and fridge with quick and easy snacks: fresh fruit, sliced vegetables, plain popcorn, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, trail mix and single servings of lower-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. At work, keep a snacking survival kit at your desk or in your locker, filled with canned fruit, whole-grain crackers, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.

Keeping healthy snacks in your purse, backpack or briefcase, such as dried fruit, unsalted nuts, low-fat cereal bars or trail mix, may save you time and money and help prevent you from binging on junk food.

Last reviewed: April 2011