Almost two thirds of us snack at least twice a day, with 85% of us feeling guilty about eating between meals. Snacking can be part of a healthy diet and can benefit us in many ways. I’ve put together my top 7 tips to help you snack a little healthier.
1. Be prepared
Too often we reach for a chocolate bar because it’s the easy option. Being prepared means that you always have healthier snacks on hand whether you’re at home, at work or out and about. When you’re at home make sure your unhealthy snacks are out of sight and your healthier snacks are easily accessible.
Store fruit in a transparent bowl on the kitchen counter and cut up fruits like pineapples and mangos into containers and store them in the fridge. Keep your fridge stocked with healthy snacks such as veg, houmous, slices of turkey or chicken, and natural yogurt. Store snack mixes and nuts in transparent jars on the kitchen counter or at eye level in the cupboard.
2. Read labels
Labels can be a little daunting but the more you read them, the more you will begin to understand them. Call outs on the front of packs can often be misleading such as ‘natural’ and ‘no added sugar’, so make sure you read the back of pack. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, so if sugar is the first ingredient then it is most likely going to be high in sugar. A high sugar food will contain more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g. Remember nutritionals are either listed per 100g or per portion. It’s also worth checking the fibre and protein content of the food (discussed below).
3. Watch out for sugar
Sugar is found in lots of different foods and in some foods we wouldn’t even expect to find it such as pasta sauces, crackers and bread. Our sugar intake can therefore easily add up and we need to be careful of how much we are consuming. We are recommended to only consume 30g or 7 teaspoons of free sugars a day. Nutrition labels do not yet distinguish between free sugars and sugars already present in the food. Foods that claim to not contain any ‘refined’ or ‘added’ sugar can still be high in natural sugars. All types of sugar are processed in our bodies in a similar way and we therefore need to be conscious of our sugar intake as a whole.
4. Look for protein and fibre
Protein and fibre will both help to keep you feel fuller for longer and reduce the rise in blood sugar after you’ve eaten. They are also both very good for you. Protein helps to maintain and build muscle mass and fibre works wonder for your digestion. Look for foods with more than 3g of fibre per 100g.
5. Don’t be afraid of fat
Fats have been given a bad rep over the years but they are starting to make a comeback as we begin to realise how important unsaturated or ‘healthy’ fats are to our health. We need fats in our diets to protect our organs, keep us warm, give us energy and produce important hormones. But we also need it to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and to lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. One fat we need more of in our diets is omega-3 which is believed to be good for not only our heart but also our brains. It is mainly found in fish but you can also get it from seeds and nuts like chia seeds, linseeds and walnuts.
6. Rid the guilt
We often snack on junk foods such as biscuits, chocolate and crisps, and have therefore learnt to associate snacking with feelings of guilt. However, snacking can be part of a healthy diet and can benefit us in many ways. It provides our bodies with positive nutrients that will help nourish and energise us. It can help stabilise blood glucose levels and stop us feeling that mid-afternoon slump. If you’re snacking on the right kinds of foods and you take into consideration these 7 steps, then there is no reason to feel guilty. Ultimately we want to develop a healthy relationship with food so that when we treat ourselves we don’t feel guilty about it.
7. Snack mindfully
The food we eat affects us in every way, from our energy levels to our happiness.
When you next reach for a snack, take a moment and think about why you are feeling that way. Are you hungry, bored or is it just habit? Listen to your body, what does it need? Are you going to feel satisfied after eating that chocolate bar?
Speak again soon,
Gemma, The Food Doctor nutritionist