Snacking… Should we? Shouldn’t we? This is one of the most common questions I get asked and unfortunately it doesn’t have a straightforward answer! You see like so many things with nutrition, this depends on you as an individual. Some people function best on three meals a day whereas others need a pick-me-up in between. Let’s break it down so that you can decide what works best for you…
THREE THINGS TO CONSIDER
1. Are you eating enough protein, fat and carbohydrates in your main meals? If you’re feeling absolutely ravenous within two hours of eating one of your main meals it may be that you’re not consuming enough protein or healthy fats to keep you feeling satisfied. Don’t worry you don’t need to rush out and buy a protein powder (although on a side note the addition of a high-quality protein powder to oats and smoothies can be an excellent way to boost your protein intake). Protein containing foods include nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, legumes and meat. Obviously not everyone has time for (or feels like) a savoury breakfast in the morning -if you do have time- omelettes, egg/tofu scrambles or grab and go vegetable frittatas are awesome options. Another way to boost your intake of protein and healthy fats is simply adding 1-2 tbsp of nuts, seeds or yoghurt to your breakfast.
2. What do you prefer and are you hungry? Some people prefer to eat five small meals, some three main meals and others three meals with a few snacks here and there. It’s important to determine what best works for you which can be easier said than done, especially if everyone is having morning and afternoon tea at the office… Try experimenting for a few weeks and see if you can work out what suits you best. Before reaching for that mid-morning snack or afternoon pick-me-up, consider are you actually hungry or are you just munching away because it’s gone three o’clock? Obviously, occasions such as birthdays and whatnot are different and sometimes you just really feel like a mid-week treat and that’s completely okay too!
3. How physically active are you? If you have a physically demanding job and are on your feet for most of the day, you may need a few more snacks to sustain your energy levels and power you through the day or may not have time to sit down for a meal.
PROS OF SNACKING
Healthy snacks can help keep your energy and hunger levels sustained throughout the day -helping avoid that mid-afternoon slump and consequent extra coffee run.
Snacking can help keep your blood sugar levels stable, helping you feel more focussed and energised throughout the day.
If you finish work ravenous having a pre-gym and dinner snack can help prevent you from demolishing half the pantry while you prepare dinner. Take my advice – you don’t want to try grocery shopping on an empty stomach… it’s torture!
CONS OF SNACKING
There are lots of high energy, nutrient void snacks available that might not keep you feeling full, energised and focussed. If you’re constantly munching throughout the day but feeling flat and tired or having trouble sleeping it may be a good idea to look at some of your snack options.
TOP SNACKING TIPS & TEN EASY IDEAS
My top tip for awesome snacking is to include a source of protein, fibre (think fruits, vegetables and grains) and a little healthy fat. It doesn’t need to be complicated or fancy either -a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts is an ideal snack in my book!
1. A piece of fruit and nut butter – peanut butter & banana is my go-to combo.
2. Mixed veggie sticks and hummus – you could try this recipe here, I like to prepare and chop my veggies at the start of the week this way I’m more likely to eat them if they’re ready to go.
3. Mini frittatas – a great way to use extra roast vegetables or quinoa and they freeze well too.
4. Roasted chickpeas – toss chickpeas in your choice of spices like cumin or paprika and roast in the oven until crunchy (leave in the oven to dry out completely & they’ll be extra crunchy).
5. Chia seed puddings – these don’t just have to be a breakfast food, they can be prepped well in advance and provide you with a hit of healthy fats and fibre.
6. Yoghurt with a handful of nuts and seeds mixed through.
8. Seedy crackers or rice cakes with your choice of hummus, dip, veggies or guacamole. You could try this recipe here or if buying try pick ones that are high in fibre – they’ll keep you fuller for longer.
9. Homemade popcorn.
10. Soft boiled eggs.