Are you a secret snacker throughout the day? Working from home playing havoc with unlimited access to your treat cupboard? Jane McClenaghan’s feature this month looks at between meal snack attacks.
How to avoid between-meal snack attacks
Do you get hungry between meals?
For most of us, snacking is the norm, but is it a good idea for our health?
I am sure you have heard the advice to ‘eat little and often’, but this is old news now. Nutritional science now recognises that (for most people at least) it is a good idea to give your body a rest from constant munching, getting back to the idea that we eat three meals a day with fewer snacks in between. This helps your body to rest and reset.
If you are grazer, the idea of cutting out snacks can see a bit daunting, and the fear of hunger a bit much. I’d suggest you give it a go and see how it feels to snack less.
When you change your diet, and eat the right foods for your body and your metabolism, you will find that your cravings and energy levels will come back into balance. The key is getting the right balance on your plate, and eating enough at mealtimes.
This is not about eating less, or cutting back on calories (although snacking less may well help with weight loss). It’s more about striking the right balance. Including a palm-sized portion of protein, some fibre, plenty of vegetables and some healthy fats will satisfy your appetite and fuel you for longer. Try cutting back a little on the starchy carbs – like spuds, rice, pasta and bread.
Why do you snack?
A lot of the time we are snacking when we are not even hungry.
Here are some common reasons why we snack, and some snack fix ideas to help you recalibrate:
1 Do you eat because your are bored, out of habit or because it’s there?
If so, what you need can’t be found in the biscuit barrel.
Snack fix: if you’re not hungry, don’t eat. If you’re tempted to snack, ask yourself, ‘Am I really hungry, or just eating for the sake of it?’
2 If you find yourself munching before lunch it could be what is missing for breakfast that is the problem. Forget toast or cereal for breakfast – this is a sure-fire way to a mid-morning energy dip that will leave you wanting to refuel before lunch. A decent, protein-based breakfast will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Snack fix: pick a protein-packed breakfast like porridge with nuts and seeds, and some berries, or some kind of egg-based brekkie.
One snack a day
3 Ever had a dreadful night’s sleep then been forced to prop yourself up with coffee and snacks through the day?
It’s no surprise that lack of sleep is bad news for health. You will almost certainly feel hungrier if you’re often forced to get by on less sleep than you need.
Snack fix: if this sounds like you, it’s time to make sleep a priority. Every single aspect of your health is crying out for it.
Leaving very long gaps between meals is not a great idea either, as it can leave you feeling hungry and for a good reason. Lunch at 1pm, then not eating your evening meal till 7 or 8pm is a long gap. In this case, it might make sense to squeeze in a little something part-way through.
Just make sure any snacks you do have are adding a little pop of nutrition to your day, rather than snacking on empty calories. Unfortunately many ready-made snacks, while they pretend to be healthy, are filled with high-sugar dried fruits (which can upset your blood sugar levels) or additives, so make your own where you can.
Here are my top five snack ideas:
- Fruit (apples and pears are good) + nuts + seeds
- Two oatcakes + cottage cheese
- Houmous and crudities (carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, red pepper batons…)
- Feta + olives + tomatoes
- Dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent) with a few Brazil nuts