Snacking doesn't have to ruin your healthy eating plans!
or many of us, the term 'snacking' is often associated with ruining healthy eating plans, cheating on diets, and generally failing to live up to our own lofty expectations.
But here’s the thing; having a snack doesn’t have to involve any of the highly processed, sugary, oily morsels of empty calories, known as ’snack foods.’
Snacking isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it can be a great way to keep your portion sizes under control at meal times and boost your energy levels throughout the day without needing to resort to intravenous coffee.
So, the good news is, you don't need to quit snacking. However, tweaking a few habits here and there could keep you in great shape and ensure you never feel deprived.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow to help you snack the healthy way.
Satisfy with substantial snacks
Allowing yourself to become insanely ravenous and irrational by meal time can result in putting away a mountain of food before you even become aware of what’s happening. Having a few healthy snacks throughout the day is the best way to prevent an overindulgence of epic proportions.
The trick is to make sure you're choosing snacks that will leave you feeling satisfied and keep your blood sugar levels steady for at least a couple of hours. The easiest way to ensure this without turning a snack into a full-blown feast is to combine high fibre foods with those that contain some protein. Think: apple slices with peanut butter, carrots dipped in homemade hummus, or a slice of blueberry vanilla protein loaf. Yum!
Only buy whole foods
Supermarket snack food isles are places to avoid if you really want to snack the healthy way. Highly processed, packaged snack foods are a very convenient solution when you're hungry and busy, but despite whatever clever marketing slogan is jumping out at you from the packaging, the majority of these 'foods' are best avoided in a healthy lifestyle.
If you stock your fridge with market-quality fruits and vegetables and fill your pantry with a variety of whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, then you'll have an abundance of healthy snack options available at home.
For snacks at work or school, opt for the kinds of fruits, veggies and nuts that are easy to pack and take with you. Grapes, almonds, apples, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and bananas are a few easy-to-carry snack ideas.
Healthy snacks can also be a little more decadent if you prefer to get creative in the kitchen. If you have a food processor at home, there are many delicious, plant-rich recipes for snacks online, such as choc-protein cookie dough balls, and coconut & almond choc chip protein slice.
Get more sleep
The importance of a good night’s sleep applies to pretty much every aspect of our lives, and even our snacking habits are likely to suffer as a result of too many late nights.
Sleep deprived people not only tend to eat more calories than those who are well rested, but they are also much more likely to make poor food choices.
When we haven't slept well, our energy is low and staying focused is difficult. This means we're much more likely to crave sugary snacks and processed carbs to get a quick (but short-lived) surge of energy.
Getting enough sleep helps us feel good, and when we feel good, we make good choices. Prioritising sleep and getting more early nights will help you stay on track with healthy snacking.
Take a moment
When cravings strike in between meals, take a moment to ask yourself whether it's nutrients you need, or if you're just tired, thirsty, stressed, or simply in need of some comfort.
If you’re at work, perhaps a break is all you need. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and emotional, maybe a relaxing bath or a phone call from a friend is what will really help.
With processed, packaged foods so readily available to us, it's easy to snack to distract, comfort or entertain ourselves. The key to healthy snacking is to ensure you're eating to meet your body's needs and providing it with the best nourishment possible.
So, take a moment… close your eyes… and ask your body, mind and soul what they’re trying to tell you.
Be present, snack mindfully
To get a better feel for your unique energy requirements and keep track of what you're eating each day, it helps to practice mindful eating.
Rather than eating while you drive, walk, or watch TV, put your food on a plate and sit down somewhere without any distractions. Spend your snack time being present in the moment; look at your food… smell it… taste it… and enjoy it.
Avoid eating any of your snack before you've put it on the plate, and you're comfortably seated. You'll find it's much more satisfying this way, and over time, you will become more in-tune with what your body needs, and which foods make you feel your best.
Bringing awareness into your snack time will help you make healthy choices and avoid eating too much or too little.
Never skip a meal
Many of us are guilty of skipping the occasional meal when we’re busy, tired, or trying to reduce how many calories we eat.
Breakfast is the most commonly skipped meal, and the consequence is often an oversized, unhealthy snack later in the day. As soon as the hunger pangs hit, you’re in danger of downing and double-serving of the nearest available junk food.
Commit to having breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to see your snack time mishaps turn into a healthy and wholesome hunger management strategy.
Remember: a well-fuelled body supports a calm mind
Following these suggestions will take the guilt and shame out of snacking, and help you develop enthusiasm and gratitude for healthy food. A well-fuelled body supports a calm mind and makes any challenges we face each day much easier to overcome.
Remember though, that no one should be striving for perfection, and there is no harm in the occasional slip-up or deliberate indulgence. Aim for optimal snack habits rather than perfect snack habits, and keep these guidelines in mind whenever you need to get back on track with healthy snacking.