You have breakfast, lunch and dinner balanced and correct but are you falling down with your snacks? We tend to focus on main meals when we are trying to manage our nutrition and then in between we are having soft drinks, a quick bar of chocolate or a packet of crisps. While a treat now and again is no harm (you do have to live a little…) why not use your snack times as a way to really add nutrition to your body and maximise your goals.
Am I hungry?
The first thing to check with snacks is if you actually need them. Often we eat from habit instead of hunger. If you are not hungry, trust your body and move on. If you are hungry, then choose a snack with benefits…
Rich in protein and nature’s own multi-mineral supplement. Nuts, like almonds and hazelnuts, are great source of everything from iron, zinc, calcium, B vitamins and magnesium. Head off a craving or hunger pang with a healthy handful.
Full of vitamin C and fibre, fruit can help satisfy a sweet craving while keeping your immune system healthy and you on target. Bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, kiwis – whatever you fancy. If you have a real sweet tooth try freezing grapes and eating them in place of your usual sweets.
Pots of protein
These are popping up in supermarkets to cater for people who are training hard and need a protein boost. Check out your local supermarket for ideas or try John West No Drain, or John West Infusions with salmon or tuna for a convenient protein boost.
On their own these can be boring and tasteless but paired with some hummus, yoghurt dip or topped with lime juice & salt, veg sticks become a handy, high fibre and nutritious snack. Try carrot, cucumber, celery sticks, cucumber and red pepper.
Although it’s still high in fat, dark chocolate is also a concentrated source of lots of minerals including iron, zinc and magnesium. Swap it for your usual chocolate or try it in place of a biscuit.
Stay In control
Just because a snack is healthy, doesn’t mean you can graze on it all day. Over eating, even on healthy food, can add weight you don’t need. Stick to the rules: only snack if you are actually hungry. If not, then wait for your main meals and nourish your body there.
Four Key Messages
- Only snack if you are hungry. Otherwise wait for main meals – you tend to eat better and have more balance
- Swap less healthy snacks for foods that really add key nutrients like protein, iron, zinc and fibre. Pots of tuna and salmon, nuts, fruit, vegetable sticks with nutritious dips and dark chocolate can all offer you more than the usual all-sugar-no-nutrition snacks.
- Pop some protein. Yoghurt, nuts, tuna, cheese and nuts will add protein which is needed to build and maintain your muscle. If you do need to snack these are great options.
- Remember not to overdo it. Although there are some great snacks too much of a good thing can still lead to unwanted weight gain. Keep to sensible portions and you can balance your calories with great nutrition.
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.