Diet & Nutrition

Five ways to snack your gut back into shape


Acclaimed dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan shares how to up your snack game and keep your gut in good health.

Over the past year the diet and lifestyle of Australians has undoubtedly changed significantly due to the pandemic, with our gut health taking a hit.

As a result, 3 in 4 Aussies report they are concerned about their gut health, and only half know what foods support better digestive wellbeing – as evident in the research by Australian Pears. With winter fast approaching, now is the time to focus on getting our gut health back into shape and a good way of doing so is looking at the foods we choose to snack on daily.

We can really do our guts a favour by switching our snacks to higher fibre options. To get you started, I have shared my top tips on doing just that and snacking your gut into shape.

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#1 Get more plant-based diversity when looking for snacks

There are many different types of fibre that we should be trying to incorporate into our diet to help achieve optimal gut health.

Although this might sound confronting, it’s quite easy to achieve and can be done by including different plant-based foods into our diet, providing the fibre and other plant compounds essential for a healthy gut.

Aim to add 30 different plant-based foods across the week by snacking on nuts and seeds, and fruits such as pears which are a great source of fibre, containing both soluble and insoluble fibre to support gut health.

#2 Stack your snack drawer at work with these fibrous options

With many of us spending the better part of the past year working from home, there’s no doubt we found ourselves making several trips to the fridge to snack on whatever we could get our hands on.

This is an easy way to upset your gut, especially if you’re reaching for the unhealthy snack options. Now we’re getting back into the swing of things, I suggest thinking ahead and stacking your snack drawer or fridge with fibrous snack options, such as:

  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans
  • Fruits that are high in fibre, such as pears. One of my favourite go-to afternoon snacks when looking to up my fibre is a sliced pear topped with a delicious piece of mature cheddar cheese
  • Greek yogurt is easy to keep in the fridge at work or home and is rich in probiotics, fantastic for keeping your gut happy and healthy
  • Curb your mid-afternoon craving with a slice of wholemeal bread, topped with avocado for added goodness

#3 Swap your morning snack for a healthy fruit smoothie

Fruit smoothies are a great snack alternative and can assist in increasing the consumption of plant-based foods, such as fruits, that you need daily for fibre. Be careful however with commercial and cafe bought smoothies as these can be very high in kilojoules.

It’s best to make your own so you are in control of the ingredients. When preparing your smoothie, use dairy or soy milk for higher protein options, or if you are looking for lowest kilojoules opt for almond or skim milk. Then add high fibre fruits such as pears or nuts for a nutrient boost and to ensure you feed your gut microbiome as well as yourself – your gut will thank you.

#4 Make water your main drink throughout the day

Many of us know that drinking enough water each day is essential, but did you know it is good for your gut health as well? Many fibres absorb water in your gut, and this is part of how they work to keep you regular.

If you aren’t getting enough water, your body will pull some from the body and into your gut, which can leave you feeling dehydrated.

I recommend keeping a bottle of water at room temperature on your desk – and aim to have at least a cup every hour, more if it’s hot or you have been exercising. Fruits such as pears actually help with hydration as they provide both water and fibre.

When consuming drier foods at snacks or meals you need to also consume more water.

#5 Prepare your snacks in advance

A good way to ensure you are getting the many different types of fibre needed from the food you eat along with other important nutrients, is to prepare in advance. I always like to map out the foods I plan to eat over the coming week before hitting the grocery store.

This is a good way to ensure you are getting a good variety of plant-based food such as fruits, and ensure you are switching these up from week to week. This might also stop you from getting bored when it comes to your snacks and searching for unhealthy options when that afternoon sugar craving kicks in.

Dr Joanna McMillan has fast become one of Australia’s best-known nutrition and lifestyle specialists. She has a PhD qualified nutrition scientist, is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow with La Trobe University, guest lecturer at The University of Sydney and a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine.

Australian Pears are a great option for incorporating fibre into your diet and are available year round. Visit this website for more information.