Smart swaps for healthier snacks

  • Date: 10 November 2016
  • Category: News
fruit and muesli

As a nation we eat too much junk.

This year the CSIRO assessed the eating habits of 65,000 Australians against the Australian Dietary Guidelines and discovered we’re consuming three times more junk food than the recommended daily limit. 

This matters; 1 In 4 children and almost 2 in 3 adults in Australia are overweight or obese.  This impacts our health in many ways – from musculoskeletal conditions, heart disease and diabetes to an increased risk of at least 10 cancers.

So what makes junk, junk?  Usually convenience food and drinks, junk is highly processed, offering little nutritional value to our diets while being high in sugar, fat and salt. 

But we don’t have to ditch the bad stuff completely.  Experts say we should aim to halve the bad and double the good, meaning halve the amount of junk food and drink we consume and double the good stuff, mostly vegetables.

Heading into the silly season, we’ve come up with some smart swaps to help you snack better and cut the junk:

Chips – high in salt and kilojoules with little nutrient value – chips are moreish and too easy to overeat at parties or even just sitting at home watching TV.

Smart swap:  Popcorn, make your own or choose a low salt plain option for a wholegrain snack with a bit of crunch.

If you have more time and are entertaining guests, avocado dip or hummus with vegetable sticks is a simple way to snack smarter.  Be adventurous and go beyond the humble carrot and celery stick, try capsicum, broccoli, green bean, cauliflower, lightly steamed asparagus, or fennel.  Serve with olives and feta cheese to mix up the flavour and textures.

See dip recipes below.

Cakes, biscuits, muffins and doughnuts – serving sizes are often enormous, and these baked goodies are high in energy (kilojoules) and low in nutrients.

Smart swap:  toasted wholegrain bread with banana and cinnamon, fruit toast with nut butter. If you still want that sweet fix, go for the smallest serving size available.

Ice cream – super high in sugar and fat meaning very high kilojoules and low nutrients.

Smart swap:  yoghurt with berries. Add crushed toasted nuts for a crunchy treat.  Freeze in a small container for a cooler snack on hot days.

Alcoholic drinks – contain more kilojoules per gram than protein or carbs with no beneficial nutrients.

Smart swap: try a refreshing St Clements: sparkling water with crushed mint and lemon and orange slices.  And you don’t need to cut out alcohol altogether, just keep an eye on how much you’re drinking.  Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks in between.  And every week have a few days off.

Health foods – sport bars, muesli bars, fruit bars, breakfast cereal bars – often marketed as ‘healthy’, these products are often high in kilojoules and sugar and many can be surprisingly low in nutrients.

Smart swap:  fresh fruit  the water and fibre content will fill you up faster with less kilojoules and more important nutrients.  

For a more substantial snack add nut butter or mixed nuts.  Nuts are the supreme energy snack.  Packed full of nutrients and very satisfying; a handful of toasted (but unsalted) nuts will keep you going for hours. 


We’re cutting the junk this summer at the Y, for more information about the changes in our centres speak to our customer service staff.


Avocado dip

  • Scoop flesh of two avocados into a bowl and mash with a spoon.
  • Add juice of a small lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.  Try chilli or cumin for something spicier.
  • Stir lightly to combine and serve with vegetable sticks.



There are infinite variations of hummus, here is one. 

  • Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.
  • Add to blender with half a clove of garlic, juice of a lemon, 2 tablespoons of tahini, a pinch of saltand 2 tablespoons of cold water.
  • Blend until smooth and adjust lemon, salt and water to taste.
  • Sprinkle with diced black olives and chopped parsley


New Year’s resolution – don’t drink sugar, drink water!