Planning meals can be fairly easy: there are lots of great recipes, plans and ideas. And we can be fairly sure (most of the time) when we are going to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, how many of us fall down when it comes to snacks? What do you do when you are unexpectedly late at work? When lunch is delayed and you need a snack to keep going? Out and about or straight after training? We take a look at some of the best snacks to have to hand – at your desk, in your kit pack, handbag or car. Ready to give you the best nutrition to train, recover and excel.
1. Fresh fruit is always a handy snack. They are a source of natural sugars so they are useful as a pick me up and, teamed with nuts, they are a balanced way to add some protein as well as vitamin C to your mornings.
2. Yoghurt is a great source of protein as well as calcium. A great mid-afternoon snack teamed with some nuts or dried fruit.
3. Smoothies: made with whole fruit and leafy greens with milk or water for the liquid, smoothies have a lot to offer. They are a brilliant way to get your 5-a-day and made with milk or yoghurt they will add protein too.
We may not always have time to pack fresh snacks and you also want something that won’t go off in the bottom of your bag (ever found a squashy, brown banana in there?). Get into the habit of adding some snacks-that-keep to your desk, car or bag so you don’t end up heading for the less nutritious options when you’re stuck (although now and again is no harm…).
Snacks that Keep
1. Nuts and seeds. Brilliant sources of the many minerals your body needs to make healthy red blood cells (you know, the ones that carry oxygen) as well as zinc, copper and selenium. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein. They are high in fat so don’t eat them just before training – they will take longer than other snacks to clear your stomach. However, these are perfect for a mid-morning snack with a piece of fruit or for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up with a square or two of dark chocolate.
2. Dried fruit: great source of carbs for after training. Look for raisins (a good source of iron) as well as dried mango, apricots and dates. These do stick to your teeth so don’t nibble on them all day but they work really well with nuts and seeds.
3. Tuna: a great source of protein, no-drain tuna and flavoured tuna e.g. John West Infusions are quick and easy snacks that can be eaten anytime. Tuna works well for a protein boost before training or if you are going to have to lunch at your desk. Keep a packet of crackers handy and you have a quick emergency lunch. Add some of your dried fruit as a dessert spoon counts as 1 of your 5-a-day.
4. Latté: Or Cappuccino or any milky coffee. Although you won’t fit this one into your bag, they are easy to come by. Milk is a great source of protein and natural sugar so it makes a great pre- or post-workout drink. The hit of caffeine is no harm if you are experiencing an afternoon slump or need a boost to head out to train.
5. Cereal and protein bars: These are great as they keep for ages making them something you can easily have on standby for emergencies. Cereal bars can be high in sugar but this makes them useful if you are hungry before training or to refuel after. Protein bars can add some extra protein if you’ve been to the gym and don’t have time to stop for a meal before heading out.
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Sarah Keogh in association with John West
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.