The festive season shouldn't be an excuse to forget about healthy eating.

Durban - Contrary to popular belief,snacking can help you stay healthy, says Kele Moshugi, registered dietician at catering company RoyalMnandi.

It provides you with sustained energy and keeps your metabolism active.

The right snacks help to keep your blood glucose (sugar) stable throughout the day thereby decreasing cravings and preventing over-compensating at meal times.

The key to healthy snacking is in the foods you choose, the amount you eat and how often you snack.

A healthy snack generally contains less than 200 calories. Ideally, where possible, people should strive to eat snacks containing less than 100 calories and limit foods that are higher in fat, sugar, and salt and lower in fibre.

Examples of healthy ready-to-eat snack options include eating fruit with low fat yoghurt, vegetables with a light dip or low fat cottage cheese or whole grain crackers with hummus, peanut butter or low-fat cheese.

Avoid eating more than three snacks a day and be aware of portion sizes.

Don’t snack directly from a large container, box or bag. And eat slowly.

Moshugi also advises skipping the urge to nibble when you are bored, tired, upset or stressed.

Learn to recognise true hunger and fullness. Instead of snacking do something else instead such as walking the dog, going for a jog, reading a book, writing in a journal or listening to music.

Also, never reach for a snack when you are distracted, such as watching TV, working on the computer, reading or driving.

In these instances we tend not to be aware of how much we are consuming.

If avoiding cookies, cakes, chocolates, ice-cream, chips and deep-fried foods seems impossible, Moshugi suggests trying to eat only small amounts.

Moshugi urges that everyone to learn to read food labels and be disciplined about checking the label on every food item before putting it into the trolley.

She advises people to check labels on foods, which say “reduced sugar” or “no added sugar”.

Glucose, fructose, sucrose and dextrose all mean sugar.

It is better to choose foods where sugar is not listed in the first three ingredients.

Many people mistake hunger for thirst. If you have just had a snack and still feel hungry rather drink a glass of water instead of having another snack. - The Mercury