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The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

High Taste, Low Cal Food with Paula Mee - Snacks!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Paula Mee, Nutritionist

She will show us some healthy alternatives to typical snacks.

IT can be up to 10 times cheaper to eat unhealthy foods loaded with fat, sugar and salt than to buy healthy items such as fruit, vegetables, lean meat and fish, according to a 2009 Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report.

For example, buying 100 calories worth of fruit and vegetables costs at least 45c, whereas 100 calories of snacks, crisps or biscuits costs 17c and 100 calories of fats and oils costs just 4c, they found.

This means it's cheaper to buy unhealthy snack foods which satisfy hunger quickly or use high-fat spreads and oils to fry food rather than buying fresh produce, they found.

The Department of Health in the U.K. is using the cartoon character Homer Simpson and his family will be role models in a new campaign to fight obesity. The Simpsons, a much-loved, close-knit family face some of the everyday challenges that modern day families go through and the health minister will be hoping that Homer will dump his beer and doughnuts while they sponsor the programme, for healthier snack foods!

Have a 'can have' attitude to snacks if you're genuinely hungry!!
At certain times of the week/month we may find ourselves particularly hungry between meals. If so, then - eat! Even if you are slimming, you can't expect to starve yourself and get away with it, if you're body is signaling for food!

If you are hungry, you need to eat. This is a basic fact of survival! It is what you eat that is the issue - are you going to eat what you need or what you think you 'need'?! Remember that many factors affect your desire for food? How many tempting colourful images on sweet and treat wrappers did you see this morning when you were buying the paper? Don't give in!!

It's all about REPLACING - not REMOVING!

Try exchanging:
. That slice of cake in the canteen for some fruit salad
. Crisps for some unsalted pretzels
. A bar of chocolate for a low fat probiotic yoghurt
. Slice of Pizza for some crispbread, low fat cream cheese and smoked salmon


For the athlete - Pre-exercise snacks for teenagers and adults (to be eaten 1 - 2 hours before exercise)
. Fresh fruit
. Dried apricots, mango or sultanas
. Smoothie (home made or ready-bought)
. Low fat probiotic yoghurt topped with fruit
. Energy bar; cereal bar or breakfast bar (without hydrogenated fat)
. Fruit loaf or raisin bread

GOOD Snack CHOICES (for adults):

Nuts and dried fruits

Can be a great top up in terms of vitamin and minerals. Because they contain fibre and protein they can make a satisfying snack. They also can contain considerable calories too so if you are slimming a small handful is adequate as a portion, not the entire pack!

Dark choc

Unfortunately there isn't a big saving on calories and fat when you switch from a milk chocolate to a dark chocolate. For me the advantage is - the dark chocolate is bitter and therefore is almost self limiting- very hard to over eat, whereas the milk chocolate is so easy to keep nibbling on......The dark chocolate contains more antioxidant nutrients which help to mop up free radicals which can build up and cause damage in tissues and cells.

Agave sweetener

A more natural sweetener than table sugar, with an even lower Gi than honey, Agave is a cupboard option - for use in baking and to top cereals etc.

Bad Snacks
. 2 chocie cookies - 244 calories
. ½ big bar of chocolate or 9 squares dairy milk chocolate - 281 calories

Healthy snack alternative

Chocolate satsumas recipe

. 100g Chocolate (you can use a mix of 50g dark and 50g white)
. 6 satsumas

1. Break the chocolate up into a heatproof bowl.
2. Place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir as you go.
3. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Peel satsumas.
4. Get as much white pith off as you can.
5. Dip the satsumas into the melted chocolate. Turn to coat. Using a large spoon helps. Lift the coated fruit onto the tray. Fill in any missed gaps with chocolate/ Leave to cool somewhere cool or in the fridge.

Bad Choice: Bar of choc
. Calories 281
. Fat (g) 16.6
. Saturated Fat (g) 9.9
. Fibre (g) 0.4
. Sugar (g) 30.7

Good Choice: 2 Dark choc satsumas
. Calories 209
. Fat (g) 9.9
. Saturated Fat (g) 5.9
. Fibre (g) 1.7
. Sugar (g) 28.7

Facts on Obesity in Ireland
. 300,000 Irish Children are Obese.
. This number increases by 10,000 annually.
. 1 in 5 Irish children are obese.
. 11.6% and 13% of all Irish girls and 10.5% and 9.2% (5-12 years) of boys* are either overweight or obese.

Healthy snack options for Kids

Dried fruit - mango

The most delicious dried fruit , this is concentrated in natural sweetness and makes a portable snack for those with high energy needs.

Apple combo Juice for frozen lollies

Instead of the shop bought sugar laden lollies with artificial colours and flavourings, freeze your own combo of apple and peach juice at home in small lolly moulds. You know exactly what the contents are that way and you can use premium juices like organic with no added sugar to give your children a healthier snack to cool them down after their fun on the trampoline.

Popcorn cinnamon

Throw away the salt cellar and top your popcorn with an even healthier flavouring -cinnamon!

Children love popcorn. It's fun to make, to handle and it looks great too. Popcorn is higher in fibre and can fill them up between meals without adding too many calories to their daily intake. Add as little oil as possible to your pan before you pop them yourself. Lower fat/low er salt popcorn is available too in supermarkets for travel purposes.

Tips and Tricks for children

According to a recent UK study by the Department of Health, more than half of young children suffer from tooth decay, and this is almost certainly linked to an over-indulgence of sweets and fizzy drinks and some heavily sugar-laden fruit juices. Children need snacks because they are growing and are very active, and depending on their height, weight, gender, and level of physical activity, children need more calories per pound body weight than adults do.

No one is suggesting that snacking is a bad thing, it's the type of snack food that children are eating that might be 'bad'.
Bad snacks are those with high sugar and salt content and those with high fat content. For example, fizzy drinks, biscuits, cakes, crisps, chocolate bars, sweeties. Fast food is sometimes given to children as a snack after school, and that too is a bad idea.

So what is a healthy snack? Without doubt, fruit and raw vegetables are by far the healthiest and natural kind of snack a child should be eating. Here are some good examples for you to follow:

. Cut up fruit: apples, pineapple, pear, tangerine, kiwi fruit, and strawberries.
. Cut up vegetables: carrot, celery, cucumber, small corn on the cob, red and yellow peppers are sweet, cherry tomatoes that are small enough for children to eat in one mouthful.
. Low fat cheese with a slice of apple
. Dried apricots and other types of dried fruit.
. Bananas - easy to carry and eat when out of the home.
. Brown Pita bread or a bagel with banana is a substantial snack for after a game of football or swimming.

Make your own 'trail mix' or even better, ask your children to help you make it. Keep it in a big glass jar for future use. It can contain: raisins, sultanas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries. A great mix of essential micronutrients there.

. Fruit Smoothies for the active child, either made fresh at home, or bought for after school. There are many new brands on the market now and all are sold in the main supermarket chains.


. Don't give children too many choices. Offer them the healthy food and say 'here you are', don't say 'would you like'. It gives them the option to say 'no'. If they are hungry and there is nothing else on offer, they will eat what you give them. Only offer healthy snacks though!
. Change the snacks each day - they will get bored with the same old chunk of pineapple!
. Be creative with the fruit and vegetables - cut them up into fun pieces.
. Be patient with your children. If you are trying to change their snacking habits, it won't happen over night.

. A typical serving of sweets (90g) - 432 calories
. A typical serving of corn snacks (70g) - 350 calories


Makes 12-14

. 150g reduced-fat butter (I am going to try oil) plus extra for greasing
. 150g ready-to-eat, soft, stoned dates
. 3 tbsp apple juice
. 30g toasted sunflower seeds, finely chopped
. 100g ready-to-eat dried apricots, finely chopped
. 225g porridge oats

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5. Grease and line a shallow 17.5cm-square tin with baking paper.
2. Put the dates and apple juice in a food processor and whizz until smooth. Add the oil or butter to a large pan and heat slowly. Add the date purée and all the other ingredients. Stir well, then press into the tin with damp hands. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just golden.
3. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares in the tin. Cool completely before turning out and cutting again to separate.

Bad choice: Serving of sweets
. Calories 432
. Fat (g) 19
. Saturated fat (g)2
. Fibre (g) 0
. Sugar (g) 60

Healthy alternative: Flap jacks
. Calories 211
. Fat (g)11.3
. Saturated fat (g)1.6
. Fibre 2.6
. Sugar (g)12.7