How to choose healthy free-from snacks
Adapting a free-from diet due to food allergy, intolerance or coeliac disease can be tricky enough, especially as there can be surprising sources of different allergens. On top of this is also the struggle of how to eat well and stay healthy, particularly if you’re dealing with multiple allergies. So how do you go about finding foods that are both free-from and good for you too?
Many products are high in sugar, fat, and salt, and in some cases may have even more than their regular counterparts. For example, one supermarket’s free from shortbread biscuits were found to have slightly more fat and over double the amount of sugars. Of course, these are foods usually considered as treats so won’t be eaten too often, but this can lead to you increasing your sugar and fat intake in the long term without realising.
Making more food from scratch is the best way to know exactly what is in your food and reduce your intake of sugar, fat and salt, whether you’re following a free-form diet or not. However, this can’t be the case for everything, especially for our busy, on-the-go lifestyles. You’re likely to become a pro at checking the label for allergens, but how do you check to see how healthy the product is overall?
Reading the label
This isn’t about getting hung up on any particular nutrient, but being aware of what is in your food so you can see how it fits in with the rest of what you’re eating over the day or week. For instance, if your cereal of choice is high in sugar, you then know it’s probably better to choose lower sugar foods elsewhere.
The below table contains the key nutrients included on packaging, split up in to the amounts considered low, medium and high. This traffic light system is also included on some packaging already, which is good for quick shopping trips – aim for more greens than reds!
|Values per 100g of food|
|Low (Green)||Medium (Amber)||High (Red)|
|Fat||Less than 3g||3g to 17.5g||More than 17.5 g|
|Saturated fat||Less than 1.5g||1.5g to 5g||More than 5g|
|Sugars (total)||Less than 5g||5g to 22.5g||More than 22.5g|
|Salt||Less than 0.3g||0.3g to 1.5g||More than 1.5g|
If you’ve got a bit more time or are at home, this can be worked out by looking at the ‘100g contains’ column – check the values and see what colour they would be given to figure out how the product fits into the rest of your diet.
Things to note:
- Currently only ‘Total Sugars’ are given in the nutritional information, instead of being split up into naturally occurring sugars (such as those in whole fruit and dairy) and ‘added’ or ‘free’ sugars. The added sugars are the ones we need to reduce for our health, so just give the ingredients list a quick scan too, to see if sugar has been listed.
- Some products may be high in fat, e.g. avocados, but the type of fat is important to consider. We should aim to get most of our fat intake from unsaturated sources, such as olive oil, oily fish, nuts and avocados (if these foods are tolerated), and less from saturated fats.
Examples of healthy snacks
Some of the current free-from snack products that are available in supermarkets and would fit into a healthy diet include:
- Nakd bars – Though these are high in sugar this is because of the fruit content: they don’t contain any added sugar and they count as one of your 5 a day! (Though unfortunately they contain nuts)
- Alpro Soya dessert pots – These dairy-free desserts are low in fat with moderate sugar content so a good snack for when you fancy a treat, and are fortified with calcium and vitamins B2, B12 and D.
- Ds-Gluten free herb and onion crackers – Most crackers are high in fat and salt so it’s important to choose an appropriate portion size to fit in with your needs, but these ones have a relatively low fat and salt content, plus they’re high in fibre.
Categorised in: Free From