To Snack Or Not To Snack?
Apple at 11am, oatcakes at 4pm, popcorn in front of the tv, hot cocoa before bedtime...so is it actually healthy to snack pretty much all day long?!
Did you grow up with just eating 3 meals a day with no snacks or did you learn to have 3 meals plus 2-3 snacks a day? So, the conundrum is, to snack or not to snack? Shall I give into this ‘snack attack’ or do I wait for the next meal (which might not be until the evening after a long. hard day at work – yikes!).
Why Do We Snack?
We snack for many, different reasons...
You're hungry (the obvious one!)
The type of situation (with family, at work, or at home)
For increased energy
Beliefs about snacking itself
Here's an interesting fact: You are more likely to snack when there is (visibly) tempting food – even when you're full!
Research shows if you plan your snacks in advance and they are based on whole foods, it may support your goals. On the other hand, if your snacks are high in (saturated) fat, refined sugars, and salt, then they may contribute to unwanted weight gain, mood changes, and energy highs and lows. Experiment with asking these questions to get more curious about your snacking habits:
When did I last eat my main meal?
Have I had enough to drink? Am I thirsty?
Can I feel a physical sensation in my tummy that is suggesting that I'm hungry?
Am I stressed about something? Did I have a bad night's sleep? Am I bored?
Dietitian-Approved Healthy Snacks
Depending on your medical condition(s), aim for a snack that is high in protein and fibre – this combination will keep you fuller for longer. If your goal is related to weight loss, enjoy 1 to 2 snacks a day - they will give you energy and help you from overeating at your next meal. Give these tasty and nutritious snacks a go:
Humous and raw, cut up, veggie sticks (cucumber, celery, carrots)
Traditional Greek yoghurt with fresh or frozen berries
Home-made popcorn with a sprinkling of sea salt or cinnamon
Roasted chickpea or edamame beans with garlic and chili flakes
Olives and low-fat cheese (feta cheese)
Some final thoughts...when you get a snack attack, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry and if you had the snack, how it will make you feel afterward. Always aim for a whole-food snack rather than that biscuit, chocolate bar, or crisps. If you habitually choose ultra-processed / junk food, not only are they less nutritious, you'll feel sluggish and crave more! You'll feel more satisfied with a healthier snack and mindset-wise, it's a big win for you as it'll support your health goals.