Choosing the wrong snacks and overeating at snack time can sabotage a generally healthy diet. It's by far the hardest part of a meal plan because there are so many "not so healthy" snacks out there and celery is not more delicious than chocolate (FACT!) If you do find a nutritious snack to eat then portion control can become a problem and before you know it, the bag of trail mix is gone and you've eaten enough calories to feed a small army.
Avoiding snacks completely can lead to extreme hunger at meal times which can cause irrational food choices so it is worth looking into which snacks are the best option to add to your daily routine.
It's important that snacks don't become extra meals because that's when your daily calorie intake can blow out. Don't get me wrong, I'm not big on counting calories as a way of dieting because calories do not always determine 'healthy or 'unhealthy' but being aware of how many calories are in certain foods is still important. Some foods are very high in calories but have no real nutrients so the best way to avoid falling into that trap is by following these simple guidelines.
1. Make sure to include protein and fibre in your snack options because that will help you feel satiated as well as giving your body adequate fuel to keep you going until your next meal. Sugary snacks that don't have much (or any) protein or fibre are easy to overeat because they don't cause the same hormonal response that tells your brain you've had enough. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to overeat when snacking on chocolate whereas we don't usually have the same problem with apples? Both contain sugar but apples also contain fibre which makes you feel full and stabilises your blood sugar so you don't feel hungry again five minutes later.
2. Portion your snacks out. Most foods will have the correct portion size clearly labelled on the box and without sounding too cray... try and stick to it! Eating four times the suggested serving size becomes a meal, not a snack (we've all been there) Maybe you could purchase snacks that are already pre-portioned? Even though it costs a bit extra initially, it works out to be cheaper in the long run as the snack will last longer than one sitting.
3. Eat snacks you enjoy. It sounds simple but smashing celery sticks because you know it's "healthy" will only lead to feeling unsatisfied and a trip to the servo to find something sugary (unless you're a celery lover then good for you😷) There are plenty of snacking options out there that are nutritious AND delicious so you just have to keep looking until you find the one for you.
4. Avoid processed foods. Again, it sounds simple but a lot of highly processed snacks are packed with empty calories (like soy crisps! Always read the back of the packet because I've been caught out with these bad boys before) An apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter may look high in calories on paper but it will fill you up and give your body protein, fibre and good fats which is exactly what a snack should do. A museli bar might have less calories but it won't give you the same long lasting energy or nutrients as a piece of fruit and nut butter will so you'll be reaching for something else within the hour.
There are a lot of different options for healthy snacks and as always, preparation is key! Pack snacks for the day in portioned sizes and don't let yourself get ravenous because that's when we tend to lose control and choose the 'not so healthy' foods.
Here are some of my fave snack options for you to try but if you're a creative person then mix it up and try some different combinations...
- Nuts or trail mix in portioned sizes of about 100g (I love the dark chocolate bits a little too much!)
- An apple or banana with a tablespoon of nut butter
- Celery or carrot sticks with a tablespoon of hummus
- Hard boiled eggs with some avocado or raw veggies
- Meat jerky (not for everyone but I'm a fan)
- Roasted chic peas or broad beans. I buy mine in portioned packets but you could roast them yourself if you're into that kind of thing😜
- Fruit with cottage cheese or greek yoghurt
- A protein shake. As long as you choose the right one, this is a sure fire way to fuel your body and kick that afternoon slump. At Health Australia is my ultimate favourite brand because there are no hidden nasties and it tastes so damn good!
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds. If you have a favourite healthy snack that's not on my list, comment below and let me know as I'm always looking for new ideas.
Here's to a happy and healthy you,
Alyssa x x