Derval O'Rourke's top tips for healthy snacks

Derval O'Rourke's top tips for healthy snacks

I'm mad for the snacks these days — I think I will forever associate lockdown with snacking. I’m trying to keep it under control and not just grab whatever comes to hand but it is a bit of an effort for me.

This week, I’m chatting about snacking strategies and sharing a brilliant recipe for rocky road.

Having pre-prepared snacks to hand is ideal but the reality is that most of us are quite busy.

Taking time to prepare a batch of snacks is a brilliant healthy habit and I try to do it once a week.

For those times when this isn’t an option, here are a few zero-preparation snacks I like to grab:

  • Fresh/dried fruit: A fantastic option packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Add a protein source if you can. For example, I love apples and nut butter. Good 4 U nutrition is an Irish family business producing great snack packs that are widely available in garages and supermarkets. Online you can find wyldsson which does a great variety of snacking options.

  • Few squares of dark chocolate: Great in the evening with a cup of tea to hit sweet cravings. Aim for at least 70% cocoa for more healthy antioxidants.

  • A handful of nuts: High in protein, healthy fats and fibre, so great to satisfy your hunger (go for the unsalted versions). When I’m sourcing these I tend to go to Lidl for its great selection.

  • Smoothies: A great option if you need something a bit more substantial. Adding a protein source makes it a smart nutritional choice and the perfect post-workout snack. The kids smoothie packs tend to be a great snack portion and handy to grab.

  • Pot of natural yoghurt: Aim for no added sugar and sweeten with a little honey or fruit compote. Add a handful of nuts for something more filling. I tend to buy Glenilen or Glenisk yoghurt in my food shop.

  • Rice/oat cakes with nut butter and banana: These are great for a boost pre or post workout. This is also my go-to snack in the afternoons when I’m working. I tend to buy Nairns oat cakes.

When you’re thinking about how much you snack and are trying to make your snacking habits as healthy and suitable for your lifestyle as possible, it’s really important to keep it simple. What does your day look like and what are your snacking requirements? I personally need a snack most nights after dinner to sleep well but that tends to be a reflection on my exercise activity in the evenings.

I regularly remind myself of my top three tips for snacking:

1. Aim for three balanced meals and two to three snacks each day. I add in a third at night if I’ve exercised. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly, we are all different. Remember though, a snack is not a meal and the portion size should reflect this. (A handful of nuts is a snack-sized portion.)

2. Aim to eat every three to four hours and include a protein source at each snack to keep blood sugar levels balanced. Don’t wait until you get hungry to eat, plan out your meals and snacking to ensure you are hitting these when you need too.

3. Ensure you are properly hydrated as we often mistake thirst for hunger. I must remind myself to drink all the time. I’m a fierce one for tipping away on teas and coffees when what I need to be doing is sipping water.


Derval O'Rourke's top tips for healthy snacks
Runner's Rocky Road

I shared this recipe recently on and everyone loved it, it is a great healthy snack to refuel with post run. Packed with healthy fats from nuts and seeds, antioxidants from the dark chocolate and just enough sugar to replenish glycogen stores from the dried cranberries. Give these a go and enjoy them!

Prep time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour to set in the fridge

Makes: 10 squares


250 g dark chocolate (75% or more), broken into small pieces

1 tsp coconut oil

75g toasted granola

75g nuts of choice

75g pumpkin or sunflower seeds

75g dried cranberries

50g desiccated coconut


Place chocolate and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water. Stir with a metal spoon until all chocolate is melted. Add the granola, nuts, seeds, cranberries and coconut to the chocolate mix and stir.

Once all the ingredients are evenly coated in chocolate turn the mix out onto a greaseproof lined baking tray. Let to set in for 1 hour in the fridge. Using a hot knife cut into portions and store in an airtight container in the fridge

Wellness Tip: Watch something uplifting or motivating. Find something to watch that is uplifting and allow yourself to zone out and watch it. I’ve been loving the Last Dance the Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls documentary.

Fitness Tip: Be mindful of your posture, try to prevent yourself from slouching and keep both feet planted on the ground when sitting rather than crossing your legs. If you spend lots of time at a computer try to remember your posture and get up every 30 minutes or so to move.

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