Healthy eating habits/Healthy Snacking on a Budget

Healthy Eating


Importance of Snacking

Healthy Snacking

Snacking regularly during the day can stop us from overeating during mealtimes and gives us energy to concentrate on study[1]. When energy and blood sugar levels drop, cravings for foods which are high in sugar and fat increase and that’s when mindless consumption of chocolate bars, chips or any other discretionary food choices occurs [2].

It is fine to eat some less than healthy snacks once in a while, but it shouldn’t become a habit. An increased consumption of foods which are high in energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium are associated with the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes[2].

This is why it is important to be prepared when planning meals and snacks for the day. Healthy snacking is an effective way of adding more nutrients to your diet [1]. It is fine to treat yourself every once in a while; however it is recommended to consume snacks which can help you meet your intake of the five food groups. These are listed in Table 1.

Snack regularly during the day to maintain energy levels and avoid feeling hungry

Table 1: The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) daily serve recommendations for Males and Females 19-50 year olds [3]

Food Group Recommendations
Breads and Cereals 6 serves
Fruit 2 serves
Vegetables and Legumes 5 - 6 serves
Dairy 2.5 serves
Meat and other Proteins 2.5 - 3 serves

What is a serve?


Serving sizes can be confusing. Everyone has their own idea of what a serve of bread, pasta or salad may be. It is important to be aware of serving sizes, and what is appropriate for your age and gender. Table 2 shows examples of serving sizes for each of the food groups, including discretionary choices (chocolate, ice-cream, chips etc.).

Table 2: The AGHE Serving Sizes for Food Groups[3]

Food Group Serving Sizes
Breads & Cereals 1 slice bread

½ medium roll or flat bread (pita)

½ cup cooked:

Rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, quinoa or porridge

2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes

¼ cup muesli

3 crispbreads

1 crumpet

1 small English Muffin

Fruit (~ a standard serve is 150g)

1 medium:

Apple, banana, orange or pear

2 small:

Apricots, kiwi fruits or plums

1 cup:

Diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar)

Only occasionally:

½ cup fruit juice (with no added sugar) or

30g of dried fruit (eg. 4 dried apricot halves)

Vegetables and Legumes (a standard serve is ~75g)

½ cup cooked:

Orange vegetables (carrots or pumpkin)

Green vegetables (broccoli or spinach)

½ cup cooked/dried/canned:

Beans, peas or lentils

1 cup of green leafy or salad vegetables

½ cup sweet corn

½ medium potato or other starchy veg (sweet potato)

1 medium tomato


1 cup:

Fresh milk, UHT long life milk, reconstituted-powdered milk, buttermilk, soy milk· or rice milk·

½ cup:

Evaporated milk or ricotta cheese

2 slices of hard cheese (eg. cheddar)

¾ cup yoghurt

· needs to contain at least 100mg of added calcium per 100mL

Meat and Other Proteins 65g cooked lean meats:

Beef, lamb, veal, pork or kangaroo

(about 90-100g raw)

80g cooked lean poultry:

Chicken or turkey (about 100g raw)

100g cooked fish fillet (115g raw)

One small can of fish

2 large eggs

1 cup of cooked or canned legumes/beans:

Lentils, chickpeas or split peas

170g tofu

30g portion of nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter (no added salt)


2 scoops of ice cream

~2 slices of processed meats

1 ½ thick or 2 thinner higher fat/salt sausages

30g salty crackers (a small individual serve packet)

2-3 sweet biscuits

1 doughnut

1 slice plain cake or small cake-type muffin

5-6 small lollies

2 Tb jam/honey

½ small bar chocolate

2 Tb cream

1 Tb butter or hard margarine

1 glass of wine (approx. 2 standard drinks)

60mL spirits (2 standard drinks)

400mL regular beer (1½ standard drinks)

1 can soft drink

1/3 commercial meat pie or pastie

12 fried hot chips

Healthy Swap Ideas

Home prepared yoghurt and muesli

Ditch the packaged convenience foods from university and choose foods that you’ve got sitting in your pantry and fridge.


Swap a sushi roll from Uni → Can of tuna or 4 bean-mix from home

Yoghurt with berries & muesli from Uni café → Tub of yoghurt mixed with berries and muesli from home

Muffin from Uni café → Banana from home

Packet of chips from Uni convenience store → Homemade pita crisps

Trail Mix

Healthy Snack Ideas


Table 3 and 4 provide interesting snack ideas for every taste. The AGHE serving sizes are included.

Table 3. Healthy Snacks for the sweet tooth[3]

Snack Idea Serving Sizes
Homemade Fruit & Nut mix (inc. almonds,

cashews, linseeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds,

dried fruits (cranberries, apricots, apple))

30g nuts = 1 serve of protein

30g dried fruit = 1 serve of fruit

Thinly sliced apple topped with ricotta

cheese, crushed walnuts and honey

OR with peanut butter and muesli

1 medium apple = 1 serve of fruit

½ cup ricotta cheese = 1 serve of dairy

15g walnuts = ½ serve of protein

30g peanut butter = 1 serve of protein

30g muesli = 1 serve of grains

Rye crispbreads topped with apricot jam,

cottage cheese and a sprinkle of LSA

(linseed, sunflower & almond)

3 crispbreads = 1 serve grains

½ cup cottage cheese = 1 serve of dairy

Apple and Ricotta Bites
Celery Sticks with Peanut Butter

Table 4. Savoury Healthy Snacks [3]

Snack Idea Serving Sizes
Carrot and celery sticks with tahini,

peanut butter or hommus

½ cup of carrot or celery = 1 serve of vegetable

30g peanut butter = 1 serve of protein

Canned tuna/salmon mixed with corn

spread on wholemeal crispbreads

3 crispbreads = 1 serve of grains

1 can of tuna/salmon = 1 serve of protein

½ cup corn = 1 serve vegetables

Wholemeal crispbreads topped with

avocado, tomato and feta cheese

3 crispbreads = 1 serve of grains

1 medium tomato = 1 serve of vegetables

40g feta cheese = 1 serve of dairy

Wholemeal crispbreads spread with

vegemite and avocado

3 crispbreads = 1 serve of grains



For many university students finding time and money to prepare and purchase foods can be challenging. Purchasing fast foods and take away options from university food vendors seems convenient but often these foods are costly, pre-packaged, and lower in nutritional value. The following tables (Table 5 and Table 6) compare prices and quantities of common snacks bought from the supermarket and university. It is much cheaper to purchase snacks from the supermarket as opposed to packaged convenience foods from university.

Table 5. Prices and quantities of common snack foods bought from the supermarket. [3] [4] [5] [6]

Snack Foods Supermarket Quantity and Price Serves
Tuna in spring water (Portview) ALDI 6 cans = $4.74 1 can = 1 serve of protein
Seaweed rice crackers (Damora) ALDI 1 pack (100g) = $0.95 10 crackers ~ 1 serve of grains
Cashews unsalted (Coles brand) Coles 1 bag (150g) = $3.00 30g = 1 serve of protein
Greek yogurt (Danone) ALDI 4 pack = $3.49 1 tub (125g) = ~ ½ serve of dairy
Bananas Coles 1 kg (6 medium bananas) = $2.00 1 medium banana = 1 serve of fruit
Carrots Woolworths 1 kg (~9 carrots) = $1.18 1 medium carrot = 1 serve of vegetable
Rolled oats (Woolworths brand) Woolworths 150g = $0.24 ¼ cup (30g) = 1 serve of grains
Frozen Mixed Berries (Coles brand) Coles 250g = $2.50 150g = 1 serve of fruit
Total cost = $18.10

Table 6. Prices and quantities of common snack foods bought from Universities. [7]

Snack Foods Place Quantity and Price
Yoghurt with fruit and muesli La Trobe 1 tub = $5.00
Blueberry Muffin La Trobe 1 mega muffin = $4.00
Sushi roll La Trobe 2 hand rolls = $5.00
Cappuccino La Trobe x 2 small cups = $7.00
Total cost = $21.00

Money Saving Storage Tips

  • Most fruits and vegetables should be stored in the crisper or produce drawer. Do not overload the crisper. It is best to buy only the amount of produce you will use within a few days [8].
  • Do not keep bananas in plastic bags. This was lock in the moisture and speed up the ripening process [9]. If bananas are over-ripened, they can be peeled, frozen, and used.
  • Keep nuts and crackers in airtight containers or sealable snack bags.
  • Cut up carrot and celery sticks and store in sealable container in fridge until use. These can be stored raw for up to 2 weeks [10].
  • Yoghurt can be kept out of the fridge for up to 2 hours [9].
  • Buy in bulk if prices are lower than usual. Non-perishable items like cans of tuna, beans, corn can be kept in the pantry for months but be sure to identify with the expiry date for each product as these will vary across brands.
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables may be costly so choose frozen varieties like peas, corn, broccoli, or berries. Not only are they more convenient to store but also provide the same nutritional goodness as the raw varieties [11].
  • Keep an eye out for sales and specials. You can access the supermarkets catalogue online for weekly specials and savings.

Visit the following sites for more information: [4] [5] [6]

Reference List

  1. a b Garden-Robinson, J. & Medenwald, S. (2011) Eat Smart: Enjoy Healthier Snacks at Work. Retrieved October 28, 2013, from .
  2. a b Piernas, C. & Popkin, B.M. (2010) Snacking Increased among U.S. Adults between 1977 and 2006. The Journal of Nutrition 140(2), 325-322.
  3. a b c d e National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Retrieved October 28, 2013, from .
  4. a b Coles. (2013) Shop Online. Retrieved 28th October, 2013, from
  5. a b Woolworths. (2013) Woolworths Online. Retrieved 28th October, 2013 from Invalid <ref> tag; name "Woolworths Online" defined multiple times with different content
  6. a b ALDI. (2013) Smarter Shopping. Retrieved 28th October, 2013, from
  7. Lost on Campus. (2013) Food. Retrieved 28th October 2013, from
  8. Van Laanen, P., and Scott. A. (1914). Safe Handling of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from
  9. a b U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (2013, August). Raw Produce: Selecting and Serving it Safely. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from
  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (2000, October). To Your Health! Food Safety for Seniors. Retrieved October 29, 2013, from
  11. Deakin University Australia. (2013) Food processing and nutrition. Retrieved 28th October, 2013, from