Snacking. This daily past time can split the camp in the nutritional world with some claiming it encourages weight gain and others adamant it supports weight loss. The truth is, it can do both, the trick is knowing when to snack, when not to snack and what to snack on. Henrietta Norton, Nutritional Therapist and co-founder of Food-State brand Wild Nutrition gives us the low-down.
When to snack:
- Long working days – For many of my clients that lead a busy urban lifestyle, having 1-2 snacks a day is really important. In an ideal world we would eat a balanced meal based on vegetables, protein and healthy fats and eat every 4 hours, however in reality our eating patterns can be a far cry from this. For many, meals are not balanced enough and because often the day starts early and finishes late there can be up to 6-7 hour gaps between our meals. This is too long when it comes to maintaining blood sugar stability and can induce a ‘stress’ response resulting in energy dips and ravenous hunger pangs mid morning or afternoon. I find alot of clients ‘ elf-medicate’ these times by having a coffee (often a latte or cappuccino, unconsciously using the milk as a ‘snack’) which only perpetuates the blood sugar high and low later in the day. I use Wild Nutrition’s GTF Chromium & Antioxidants with many of my clients as a helpful support for supporting the energy highs and lows and reducing sugar pangs.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding are another important life stage to include snacks into your diet. Keep stable blood sugar by eating every 4hours will reduce your vulnerability to symptoms such as morning sickness, lethargy, gestational diabetes as well as supporting milk supply, mood and energy during breastfeeding. It is also a great way of increasing the variety of nutrients you consume. During the last trimester of pregnancy you need around 200 extra calories and up to 500 during breastfeeding.
- Post exercise. The hour post-work out is a window of opportunity to support muscle repair. So if you are not going to be eating a meal within 1-1.5hrs after working out then I would recommend a protein based snack such as a green smoothie with hemp protein or a handful of brazil nuts.
When not to snack:
- When you are thirsty – Thirst can be easily mistaken for hunger, so keep hydrated, especially if in this warmer weather and if working in air-conditioned offices. If in doubt have a large glass of water and if still hungry 20 minutes later, have a healthy snack.
- If you’re ‘on the run’ – Sitting and taking time to eat your food is not just a romantic notion, it is in fact a crucial aspect of digestion. Eating in a calm environment stimulates the release of salivary enzymes in the mouth to break down food. If we are distracted by the television, eating whilst walking or tapping on our laptop it can affect how well we can absorb our nutrients from the food and leave us feeling bloated, still hungry or give us indigestion.
- Late at night – There has been a number of study’s that have looked at the impact of eating at night on our general health and they have concluded that eating late at night on a regular basis can increase risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. So aim to stop eating after 7.30pm when possible.
What to snack on:
The art of snacking is in the quality and the timing of the snack. Forego processed snack bars, even those that look or sound ‘healthy’ as most of them contain high amounts of sugar in disguise such as corn syrup or rice syrup. Instead replace them with natural, unadulterated foods. Make them protein based too. My favourites are half an avocado, poached salmon or trout on a slice of rye bread, a small pot of natural yoghurt, a tablespoon of nut butter with an apple. These aren’t so practical if you are on the run, so in this case keep a mixed bag of seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower (often denser in minerals and trace minerals than nuts) in your bag.