If like us, you came into 2023 with ambitious declarations of making this year a health-focused one, you’re probably feeling pretty hopeful right now. That post-resolution buzz is still going strong, and for what it’s worth – we believe you’re going to do everything you set out to accomplish!
For some people, one of the year’s main goals will be losing weight. While such a thing is simple in theory – generally, if you can remain in a calorie deficit, you're golden – actually doing it is tricky. Especially when our modern diet is filled with high-calorie foods that don't really provide adequate nutrition.
What’s the problem with most high-calorie snacks?
There’s nothing wrong with calorie-rich food sources on an objective level. The body needs fuel to run, just as it needs a variety of macro and micronutrients. The problem is that many food types have disproportionately high calorie counts, relatively few nutrients, and a genuinely worrisome list of potential health risks.
The more problematic elements of many popular snacks are far from common knowledge. Let’s take a brief look at the average bag of crisps as an example.
Are crisps really that bad for you?
Mostly, yes, they really are – at least with repeated consumption. The majority of crisps are high in sodium, cholesterol, processed carbohydrates, and refined oils. It's believed that a combination of some of these components can lead to inflammation – chronic inflammation can increase the risk of developing several serious diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
The risks don’t lessen as the price goes up, either. Multiple brands of crisps, including so-called ‘fancy’ offerings like Tyrrell's, contain high levels of acrylamide – a compound that is ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ by the United States' National Toxicology Program.
And what about refined sugars?
Sugar is a naturally occurring compound found in a variety of food types. As you'll probably remember from early science lessons, the body needs glucose, a form of sugar, to survive. No wonder it tastes so good!
Refined sugar is a heavily processed version of natural sugar, and it's most commonly used to alter the taste of well, nearly everything.
You can find it in soft drinks, chocolate bars, cakes, bread, table sauces, yoghurts, and a lot, lot more. A lot of these foods tend to lack nutrients that the body needs, like certain vitamins, minerals and fibrous content.
Health risks of refined sugars
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer's disease
It’s easy to understand why people gravitate towards these options even when fully aware of the risks. They're relatively cheap, convenient, and their high sugar count means quicker satiation, or at least the illusion of satiation.
The overconsumption of problem foods lies instead in the industries that push them so relentlessly, and a system that prioritises profit over public health. But that's a meaty topic to dive into, so for now, we'd like to focus on the dietary changes you can make to kick 2023 off right.
Healthy food types for 2023
- Nuts - low calorie, rich in unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins, potassium, zinc, copper
- Fruits - low fat, low calorie, rich in potassium, vitamins, fibre, folate
- Legumes - low fat, low cholesterol, rich in fibre, protein
- Vegetables - low fat, low calorie, rich in fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals
Below we have a selection of what we anticipate to be our go-to snacks for the year ahead. You'll find a broad range of options, from mushrooms to goji berries. They're consistently delicious, nutrient-rich and low in calories – AKA the holy trinity!
Mushrooms? They’re kind of magic. Packed with vitamins, fibre, healthy starches, and potential adaptogenic properties, they’re also spectacularly low in calories. But wait, that’s not all. Many of them taste divine, and in our eyes, shiitake is the undisputed king of all culinary fungi.
While our Dried Shiitake Mushrooms can’t be gobbled up from the packet, whipping up a shiitake-centred dish can be done in minutes. A shiitake noodle broth can operate as a fantastic low-calorie, nutrient-rich midday snack, and this standout mushroom works just as well in omelettes or in soup.
First originating in China, the humble plum has since pretty much taken over the world, with over two thousand species now spread out across the globe. Plums have been beloved for millennia, and it’s not hard to see why.
Boasting an impressive antioxidant count, plums are packed with vitamins and have an unusually high amount of potassium. According to the Health Harvard website: ‘Potassium is necessary for the normal functioning of all cells. It regulates the heartbeat, ensures proper function of the muscles and nerves, and is vital for synthesizing protein and metabolizing carbohydrates.’
We’re pretty sure they know their stuff, so we’re inclined to view extra potassium as a pretty good thing. Our Dried Black Plums pack all of the nutritional content of an undried version, except now they’re in bitesize, snackable form – perfect to nibble on throughout the day for an instant boost of non-refined sweetness.
If you’re familiar with the content of some of our previous blogs, you’re probably sick of hearing about goji berries. We wish we could say the sycophancy for Gou Qi Zi will stop, but as long as these little red nutritional powerhouses stay super, we’ll keep bleating on.
Apart from the more mythical tales surrounding the first claims of their life-extending capabilities, they’re renowned for disproportionately high levels of antioxidants, and their potential applications for treating everything from high blood sugar to hypertension.
Oh, and they’re jam-packed with vitamins, low in calories, and taste splendid, making them the perfect healthy snack to start – and continue – the new year in style. As we said in our goji berries deep dive, not bad for a little red berry.
The importance of dietary protein can’t really be overstated. In fact the clue is in the name – or the etymology of it at least. Derived from ‘protos’ a Greek word meaning ‘first’, the choice of word highlights the unparalleled importance of the most essential macronutrient available to us.
Proteins, and the amino acids that make them up, are responsible for ensuring the growth and health of our cells and tissues. Because of our carb-heavy proclivities, it’s highly likely that you aren’t getting enough of it in your diet.
There are a number of different food sources that can address this, and legumes – like our delicious Dried Red Adzuki Beans – are one of our favourites. Offering a balanced mix of carbs, fiber, fat and protein, they make great, nutritious additions to soup and chilli dishes.
Jujube dates, a fruit native to China, have long been prized for their taste and nutritional benefits. They've also been utilised in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years, specifically as a way to tonify the Spleen and bolster stomach qi.
The Stomach is a zang-fu organ that has a direct impact on the onward movement of food and nutrients throughout the body, and it's believed the strength of each organ is reliant on it functioning correctly*.
Our Dried Jujube Dates are rich, sweet, and low in calories. We're partial to putting them in a bowl and reaching for them whenever we want a nutritious, guilt-free boost.
It probably seems like we're morally opposed to the thought of even looking at a cake, or a chocolate bar, or – dare we say it – a bag of crisps. But we're really not. Aside from it being almost impossible to to eat nutritious food only, it probably wouldn't be much fun anyway.
We're not telling you you need to completely cut out the things you enjoy. But we do think it's an idea to move towards a higher proportion of nutrient-rich food types, and we'll be starting by swapping out our usual snacks for some of the low-calorie options we've highlighted above.
Whether you're interested in low-calorie snacks for weight loss or general health reasons – or just because you like the taste, and for that we can't blame you – we're glad you're joining us on the journey to find a better balance with the stuff that keeps us ticking.
Our entire range is 15% off for the month of January. Shop our full collection by clicking the link.
*Vita Herbal Nutrition cannot guarantee the positive effects of its products. Results may vary. Our products are not designed to treat medical conditions or diseases, and have not been evaluated by food and drug administrations.