Contrary to what you may imagine, having little snacks between meals is a healthy habit that can help counter health issues ranging from obesity and diabetes to high blood pressure. From a health standpoint, snacking is both healthy and essential. It can help lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar; keeps the energy levels up and mind alert.What really matters, however, is your choice of snacks. Make choices packed with high nutrient value such as a small bowl of channa or roast chicken sandwich made with wholewheat bread instead of the white kind.Teenagers especially need more nutrients between school, homework, sports, and hanging out with friends as their bodies are still developing. Women also need to eat more during pregnancy and during their monthly menstrual period as their bodies need extra nutrition at these times. Those recovering from an illness also need to eat more protein to speed up the healing process. Snacks are a boon for diabetics, too, as they stabilise the blood sugar level. Additional nutrients are provided by snacks that may be missing in our meals. Three meals a day must be intermingled with snacks, so that the total number of times you eat in a day becomes five.TIPS ON SMART SNACKINGMake the right choicesAlso, prepare snacks well in advance. Create a variety, for munching, nibbling or simply mitigating that afternoon hunger. Once you have made a list of snacking options that appeal to you, stock up on the ingredients. If you work in an office, buy some little boxes based on portion size, and fill these up with chopped fruit, nuts, or whatever else you feel would constitute a good snack for you. Since variety is the spice of life for most of us, change the snack menu often to ensure that boredom doesn’t set in and drive you to that forbidden packet.advertisementHealthy snacking doesn’t have to be boring as long as you give yourself a variety of choices. A peanut and dry rice mixture, or cereal mix made with roasted oats, almonds and raisins can be kept in small pouches in your handbag or the drawer in the desk. Keep plenty of fresh fruit and veggies in your fridge too, ready to grab and go. Half a cheese or peanut butter sandwich, or a handful of nuts or berries, or rice crackers are other healthy snack options.Choose all food groupsSmart snacks are those that are trans- fat free, low in calories and in cholesterol. All the five food groups in the food pyramid should be included. To keep energy levels high and avoid weight gain, steer clear of food with lots of simple carbohydrates ( sugars) like candy bars or sodas.Look for foods that contain complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads and cereals and combine them with protein rich snacks such as peanut butter or low fat yoghurt or cheese. The base should be rice, corn, dals, gram and wheatflour instead of white flour.Read the labelsA granola bar is a good example of a snack that people think is healthy, but it certainly isn’t useful for anyone trying to bring down their cholesterol. Although these can be a good source of certain vitamins and nutrients, many also contain a great deal of fat, including the harmful trans fat. On average, about 35 per cent of the calories in a regular granola bar come from fat. And there can be a lot of sugar in granola cereals and bars. So check the nutrition facts label on the package to be sure.