A Guide to Snacking
While snacking might be a way to stave off hunger until your next meal, it’s also a sure-fire way to add hundreds of calories to your day - regular snacking on sugary treats is one of the biggest reasons for gaining weight. As a nation, we love our snacks and cutting back on them isn’t always easy. The good news is that snacks and sweet treats can be part of a healthy lifestyle – but it’s all about moderation and saving them for occasional treats, rather than relying on them as a way to get through the day.
During the break between meals (particularly overnight) the body has to use fat as an energy source. Constantly fueling the body by grazing inhibits the body from burning fat. So cutting back the snacks or at least re-assesing them is really important.
If you can get from breakfast to lunch with just an apple in between, and from lunch to dinner with just one chocolate biscuit and an unsweetened cup of tea, then you are well on the way to re-setting your eating habits.
Why we snack
The more you snack, the more you want to snack. We sometimes snack because we’re hungry, but sometimes we snack because we’re bored, thirsty, sad or stressed… food can be a comfort in many different situations, but it’s good to remind ourselves that we eat food to satisfy hunger rather than relieve stress or boredom. Try writing a food diary including when you craved a snack, what kind of snack you craved and how you felt at the time. Then you’ll be able to recognise if you’re eating for any reason other than hunger and try to change the habit!
When to snack
It can help to think of hunger on a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being very hungry and 10 being full. If you’re at 3 or 4 or higher, maybe try to hold on until lunch. If you find yourself reaching for chocolate every day at 5pm but your stomach isn’t rumbling, you’ve got yourself a habit! Try and break the habit by going for a walk instead, or get up and have a chat with a colleague or friend. Also, research tells us that it’s harder to say no to food if it’s closer at hand, so make sure it’s out of sight!
What to snack on
Try and keep your snacks to 100 - 200 calories and avoid sugary snacks like chocolate. Keep it for an occasional treat, not for every day. Remember that when it comes to feeling full, protein and fibre are your friends. Here are some ideas for filling, low-sugar snacks:
- Veg sticks – carrot, celery or cucumber sticks or a packet of sugar snap peas. You can enjoy these low calorie snacks if you feel hungry in between your meals.
- Fruit. Don’t forget to eat the skin on fruits such as apples and pears.
- Greek yoghurt and berries (around 1/5 a 500g tub and a handful or berries)
- Cottage cheese (70 - 100g) on wholegrain crispbreads or pitta bread
- Air-popped, plain popcorn. Homemade is best to avoid the high fat, sugar or salt content in some commercial brands.
Beware - while cereal bars and breakfast bars might seem like a guilt-free snack and can be low in calories, they often contain lots of sugar. They’re also not very filling so you’re more likely to feel dissatisfied than you would with one of the options above.