Is your snacking derailing your weight loss efforts? Snacking can be a great tool to really keep us on track with our healthy eating, but many of us aren’t doing it right.
The key is to approach it the same way that we do the rest of the meals of our day: deliberately.
That means NOT mindlessly. Picking up a handful of nuts or crackers here or there, eating the kids’ scraps before sitting down to your own dinner, having countless sugary coffees throughout the day… it all adds up.
Structure is your friend
I am a big fan of structuring your day when it comes to food. Let’s be clear though: structure does not mean inflexible. It means having a plan rather than just popping food in your mouth whenever it lands in front of you.
For many people, three balanced meals a day will be sufficient. Balanced means half a plate of veg, plus protein, an unprocessed carb and healthy fat. You want to be sitting down HUNGRY to a decent meal every 5 hours and be completely satisfied for a few hours after that meal.
If you actually want to give your body a chance to get through those glycogen stores and have healthy digestion, it’s important that you are giving your body a break between eating occasions.
The schedule I think works best for most is to have the three square meals, plus an afternoon snack.
A protein rich afternoon snack can really be a lifesaver, particularly if you eat dinner a little bit later. But hey, if you have a really early breakfast (4am over here!) then a mid-morning snack may be essential too.
Should I have a snack or not?
Many of us have overcomplicated these choices, thanks to some confusing mixed messages, ranging from intermittent fasting approaches to that old, 6 meals a day, eating every 2-3 hours mentality.
So, here’s the rule:
- Am I hungry? As in hungry in my belly? Emotional hunger is insistent, urgent, and often specific to a certain type of food. Genuine physiological hunger builds over time and is not specific to a particular food.
- Is it 2 hours or more until my next meal?
If you answered yes to both of these questions (I know, it’s not an extensive process!) than YES, please go ahead and have a snack. If you’re hungry but it’s only an hour or so until dinner, try to hold out until then. Hunger is the best seasoning!
The anatomy of a snack
Now not all snacks are created equal. Let’s have a think about the job of a snack. It is supposed to be something small yet satisfying that will tide us over until our next meal (probably dinner). So do you think a packet of sugary, processed, nutrient void rice crackers is going to do the job? No way!
- The usual rules apply. We’re looking for whole unprocessed foods.
- It needs to be easy to grab, almost as easy as a chocolate bar. Because let’s face it: we’re busy at this time of day.
- It needs to be high in protein.
- It’s a snack, not a meal – you want to still be hungry for your next meal – so keep it small.
Some snack ideas
- Small tubs of Greek yoghurt (some good options are Farmers Union, Chobani Plain, Black Swan and Jalna Natural. Just look for no added sugar or other junk).
- Small handful of unsalted almonds/walnuts/cashews
- Chopped carrot/cucumber/red capsicum with hummus. Try our recipe here.
- Choc Goji Balls – Try our recipe here.
- Edamame from your favourite sushi joint
- Small handful of pumpkin seeds
- Chia puddings. Try our recipe here.
- Cheese with multigrain crackers (we love the gluten free wholegrain Mary’s Gone Crackers)
Prepare your snack
I say this over and over: preparation is key when it comes to healthy eating. Knowing that you are probably going to be hanging for a snack when 3pm rolls around, plan for it!
Each week, choose one or two snack options that are healthy, tasty, and you know you will find satisfying. Pack some cheese with wholegrain crackers, mix up some chia puddings, whiz up a big batch of hummus – whatever you fancy. And then portion them out.
If you will be having almonds for your afternoon snack, divide them between Ziploc bags so you are all ready to go each day. Keeping a huge bag of almonds in your desk just doesn’t work. You’ll be diving into them all day.
What are your favourite snacks? Could you experiment with living without one of your snacks?