I am a big believer that our main meals should be filling enough to get us through without the need for snacks. BUT- sometimes we just need a snack because dinner time might be further away than we can physically cope with! Mindless snacking can bump our calorie intake right up and leave us with habitual eating times, and tighter pants. Rather than letting yourself get to the point of "starving"- have something to eat! Even better- make that something worth eating. I always choose snacks that- most importantly- will fill me up (otherwise what's the point ?), and that I can have on the go.
Here are some of my personal faves:
1. Peanut butter
Peanut butter has been given a hard time over the years but actually is one of the best things to include in your day of eating! It is rich in protein and unsaturated fats which contributes to cardiovascular protection and has been proven to be more satisfying than sugary snack alternatives. I like to have 1-2 Tbsp of this on a couple of grainy crackers, apple slices, or chopped carrots. Delicious!
2. Fruit and Veg
You can't really go wrong with fruit. It's easy to transport, satisfies the sweet cravings, provides nutrients for our immune system, and packs a decent punch of fibre to keep us full. A couple of pieces of fruit each day is a great way to boost the nutrient profile of your diet and provides a tasty on-the-go snack option.
Veges too are ready to eat as they are. They don't require unwrapping, heating, or any prep time- just grab a carrot and go! The great thing with raw vegetables is that they are VERY filling. They also take a bit of time to chew and digest so keep us occupied and full. If you aren't a carrot sticks person- never fear! Cherry tomatoes, snow peas, green beans, cauli, capsicum, broccoli- they all make for great snacking.
3. Greek Yoghurt
I love greek yoghurt but any plain, unsweetened yoghurt is great too. Without all the added sugar and flavour, plain yoghurt provides the bod with protein and- possibly most importantly- calcium. Our precious bone mass stops growing from age 25 onwards so we need to do everything in our power to protect it! Resistance training is one important part of this, but adequate calcium intake is a MUST. Adults need around 1000mg of calcium each day. A glass of milk contains 3-400mg and a cup of yoghurt might be around 3-400mg. Your green leafy veges (spinach, kale, broccoli) are also high in calcium so aiming to include a good combo of these things is a great step towards preventing osteoporosis later in life.
4. Grainy toast or Crackers
Usually I try to avoid carby snacks as I find that they boost my energy levels initially, then leave me feeling tired and sluggish soon after eating them. However I think that what we pair the carbohydrate based snacks with is very important. If we are opting for something like jam- this is very high in sugar and has virtually no protein or fats to keep us full. This means that we are basically eating sugar on top of a carbohydrate which will send our blood glucose levels soaring up, then crashing down again not long later. Instead- I always add a hearty protein food on top of my crackers and toast e.g.: hummus, egg, cheese/ tomato and onion (watch the cheese portion), peanut butter, avocado and cream cheese, tinned salmon or tuna. Always choose a grainy bread or cracker (aim for >6g fibre per 100g) as this will take longer to chew and digest, longer to pass from your stomach to your intestine, and therefore keep you feeling fuller for longer!
Not a snack- I know- but something to consider! Most adults need around 2-3 L of water each day- not including what we need post-exercise. Symptoms of dehydration don't always include thirst- but instead- hunger. We might feel tired, grumpy, unfocused, and headachy. Instead of reaching for food at the first sign of hunger- ask yourself if it is really physical hunger that you are feeling, and not thirst. Have a tea/ coffee/ water/ soda water, then see how your hunger levels feel.
If you are always getting hungry between meals- you might need to look at the size of your lunch. I often see clients who are trying to lose weight so eat a tiny lunch, then want to eat their arm off by 3pm. When we are over-hungry our body makes it very hard to control our food choices as we kick into "survival mode" and can eat anything and everything in sight. If this is you- bulk up your lunch with protein, veges, and a small serving of good fats. Also check out your breakfast and make sure that this is enough to get you through the whole morning- which can sometimes be 4-5 hours until our next meal!
If you are struggling for ideas or need more guidance- get in touch for some evidence-based, down-to earth nutrition advice from a Registered Dietitian. Based in Palmerston North I see people both in person, and over Skype. Let's stop with the yo-yo dieting and just get the food sorted once, and for good.