01/06/2014 08:00 EST | Updated 03/08/2014 05:59 EST

Healthy Snacks Can Help With Your New Year's Diet

UpperCut Images via Getty Images
With the excesses of the holidays behind us, it's likely that those who had healthy eating habits before won't have too much trouble getting back on track. But for many, establishing or re-establishing a healthy diet regimen will be harder, no matter how good the intentions of New Year's resolutions.

Healthy snacks can be a part of getting where we need to be, but only if we exercise "mindful" eating," says Heather Thomas, public health dietitian with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

What that means is snacking only when we are truly, physiologically hungry and then choosing snacks that "fit into healthier food categories, in alignment with Canada's Food Guide," Thomas explains.

"The challenge is that sometimes we eat out of habit or boredom or frustration or anxiety and we don't think whether we're actually hungry. That's when that mindless eating comes into play and that's when snacks can get a bit out of hand."

On their website,, Registered Dietitians of Canada warn that too much snacking can lead to unwanted weight gain. But they also not that healthy snacking is a good way to feel energized.

"Snacks can keep your blood glucose (sugar) levels stable throughout the day if you find your energy level drops between meals. This can help to curb your feeling of hunger between meals and stop you from eating too much at mealtimes."

Snacks can also help to bridge the feelings of self-denial some people might experience if they try to drastically change their eating habits overnight.

"Coming out of the holiday season it's a bit more challenging because we've been exposed to lot more of those higher-fat, higher-calorie, higher-sugar, higher-salt kinds of foods in the office, at home, at parties," Thomas says.

"For success and for longevity of healthy eating behaviours or physical activity or whatever, it's going to take some time. Your eating habits didn't happen overnight so they're not going to change overnight either."

She is not a fan of many commercial snacks, no matter how "healthy" the packaging claims they might be.

"For example, probably about 75 per cent of our sodium intake comes from packaged, prepared and processed convenience food."

Instead, she recommends getting "back to basics" and making things, including snacks, from scratch so you have control over all the ingredients, including fat, sugar, salt and overall calories.

Not surprisingly, fresh fruits and vegetables top her list of the best snacks and homemade snacks made of ingredients that are "more true to their original form."

Having said that, she agrees there is "absolutely" room for the occasional indulgence.

"It's all about moderation. The trick is what's moderation to me as dietitian is often very different from moderation to the general public. You have to recognize that it's OK to have a couple of cookies. It's not OK to have a row of cookies. You have to use common sense.

"A healthy diet's not going to be made or broken with a day's worth of unhealthy snacks, but it's the overall pattern that's more of a concern. You want to have intake of a wider range of different foods, including fruits and vegetables, milk and alternatives, meats and alternatives. Foods that fit into your regular healthy eating pattern are more important than the ones that are higher in sugar, higher in salt, higher in fat.

"Behaviour change is hard and it takes time and commitment and it might take some failures before things move forward and that's normal."

Specific suggestions for healthy snacks from Registered Dietitians of Canada include one medium fresh fruit, a large stalk of celery with 60 ml (1/4 cup) of low-fat, low-sodium cottage cheese, 175 ml (3/4 cup) low-fat yogurt, 500 ml (2 cups) air-popped or low-fat microwave popcorn, three or four plain cookies such as arrowroot, ginger snaps or graham crackers, 30 low-salt pretzels, 250 ml (1 cup) raw vegetables with low-fat salad dressing or dip or 30 ml (2 tbsp) of unsalted peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews walnuts or soy nuts.

"We're so hard on ourselves when we get off track," Thomas says. "We get so down on ourselves. We just have to remember that any movement toward a healthier lifestyle is a movement in the right direction."


To contact Susan Greer, email susan.greer(at)

Also on HuffPost

  • The No-Bake Brownie
    The No-Bake Brownie
    The virtuous ingredient list -- which includes honey, coconut oil, almond butter, almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, goji berries and oats -- is one reason to love these brownie-like bars. The other reason: There’s no oven required. Get the recipe: No-Bake Chocolate Almond Bars
  • The Nutritional Powerhouse For When You Feel Like A Nut
    The Nutritional Powerhouse For When You Feel Like A Nut
    The Almond Board of California
    Frothy egg whites are the surprising ingredient that help cinnamon and sugar stick to almonds in this simple roasted snack. The nuts are excellent sources of magnesium, which can help you feel more relaxed. Get the recipe: Cinnamon-Glazed Almonds
  • The Simplest Fruit-And-Chocolate Combo Ever
    The Simplest Fruit-And-Chocolate Combo Ever
    Whether you prefer to think of this as a smoothie you eat with a spoon or a dairy-free pudding, there’s no arguing that whipped bananas and pears plus dark chocolate chips are a delicious combination. Use well-ripened fruit to ensure the finished dish is sweet and smooth. Get the recipe: Banana Pear Pudding with Chocolate Chips
  • Cookies With A Secret You’d Never Guess
    Cookies With A Secret You’d Never Guess
    Prune puree may not sound sexy, but it’s a wonder ingredient: It can take the place of oil in many baked goods, and adds beneficial fiber. To make your own, combine a cup of pitted prunes with six tablespoons hot water in a food processor and run the machine until the fruit is smooth. (These cranberry-orange cookies also include applesauce, making them even better for you.) Get the recipe: Cranberry Orange Cookies
  • Another Delicious Reason To Keep Old Bananas
    Another Delicious Reason To Keep Old Bananas
    You know brown bananas work well in quick bread, but it turns out they’re fantastic in cookies, too. Using very ripe fruit means you can reduce the amount of sugar; it also provides extra body, so you need less butter or oil. Quick-cooking oats give these cookies nice texture, too. Get the recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • The Holiday Indulgence We’d Gladly Enjoy Whenever
    The Holiday Indulgence We’d Gladly Enjoy Whenever
    This healthy take on fruit cake is just as flavorful as traditional versions, minus the extra calories. The recipe calls for dried cherries, raisins, apricots, figs and dates, but you can use any fruits you like. It also includes brewed tea and orange zest, which add bright notes. Get the recipe: Fruity Spiced Tea Cake