By Sophie Clarke.
Snacks have been given bad press over the last few years as fattening, unhealthy, unnecessary additions to our regular meals. If you follow a few simple guidelines, you can really make your snacks work for you, to keep you energized, well nourished and enjoying your food.
We’ve described a few strategies below for satisfying snacking and these work best if you use them all together. Choose some snacks for their nutritional properties, throw in some treats, time your snacks to get the maximum benefit from them and you will soon begin to reap the benefits.
Join the dots
Putting a bit of thought into your snack choice, can be the key ingredient in making sure your body gets all of the nutrients it needs for a busy day. The trick is to choose a snack that includes foods from one or two of these foods groups:
Fruit and vegetables, protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and/or dairy.
Houmous or salsa with sticks of fresh celery, pepper, carrot and mange tout
A crunchy apple and a mini cheese portion
A small portion of dried fruit such as a box of sultanas with a few almonds or walnuts
A pot of natural yogurt with a handful of fresh fruit
A couple of oatcakes with nut butter
A slice of granary toast with low fat cream cheese or mashed banana
A smoothie made with berries blended with milk or soy milk (frozen berries are handy to keep in for this and are really nutritious)
If you are lactose intolerant or don’t like dairy, then think about including other types of calcium rich foods to help protect your bones, such as soy yogurts, dried figs, almonds and calcium-fortified cereals and juices.
Have a treat
Life is too short never to enjoy your favourite treat, whether you’re a chocolate-lover or cheese-fiend. Snacking well is all about having a good balance between ‘treats’ and healthier options. Choosing a day or time to have a little bit of an indulgence is a great way to keep a balance between your treats, with the added pleasure of a bit of anticipation.
Time it well
If you’ve always believed what your Mum told you about snacking spoiling your tea, now is the time to think again. Having a snack at the right time can boost your metabolism, improve your mood for the rest of the working day, and prevent you from overeating at your next meal.
We know that eating small amounts every three to four hours is the key to keeping your body happy, but many of us eat so late in the evening that we find ourselves having a seven or eight hour gap with no food between lunch and dinner. A nutritious late afternoon snack (or a late evening snack if you eat early) is one of the most helpful habits you can put into place. An early evening snack is especially useful if you’re planning to go out for drinks after work.
Snack don’t graze
Cows have evolved to graze continually because they need to eat huge amounts of a very low energy food. Nibbling small amounts continuously, lets them consume large amounts by never eating enough at once to register as full.
For us humans, high calorie, high energy foods are everywhere – (hello there well stocked fridge, till point chocolate, vending machine, coffee shop, office birthday cakes … the list goes on). When we graze, it’s really easy to eat more than we intended to, because we don’t eat enough at once for the food to register as a satisfying amount. It’s also something we often do when we’re distracted. The trick to avoiding grazing is simple – serve yourself the amount you’d like to have as a portion, put the rest of the food away and enjoy your snack.
Sophie Clarke is a registered dietitian helping people to eat well and feel fabulous whatever their weight, enjoy good food and weave healthier choices into everyday life. She is passionate about combining good nutrition with a sustainable approach to buying and preparing food and writes at http://www.mostlyeating.com