Get on track with your snacks | Munchwize Dietitians Cape Town

Snack your way to better health. Mindful, not mindless munching between your meals can help with blood sugar control, cravings and promote portion control. Take a healthy bite out of hunger with these handy hints.

Snacking is often associated with weight gain and unhealthful eating habits and there is some truth to this as it has been one of the factors to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic. Snacking on junk food accounts for over 27% of American children’s daily intake.  But it is so important to realise that the problem is not the actual act of snacking but what children are munching on. These days children are more likely to eat things like chips and sweets than fruits and vegetables as a snack. These types of snacks are what we call ‘empty calories’ and can be detrimental to nutritious eating, but the bottom line is that healthy snacking can be beneficial to both children and adults.

Benefits of healthy snacking:

  • More consistent energy levels throughout the day
  • Better hunger control
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Fewer cravings for junk foods
  • Feeling of well-being
  • Better blood sugar control.
    • Keeping blood sugar levels in an optimal range helps preventlow drops between meals.
    • Low blood sugar contributes to the experience of a ‘brain fog,’ plus low energy and a tendency toward cravings for sugary foods

Healthy snacking is a great way to help manage hunger and keep your appetite in check. It’s a good idea to try and aim to eat smaller more regular meals every three or four hours in the day. This ensures that you never get to a ravenous stage and end up overeating at your next meal. This also includes eating in the morning. Skipping breakfast has been shown to lead to over eating later in the day and then snacking on poorer food choices. Eating healthy snacks in the day can help ensure more healthful and better timed mealtimes as well as better portion control.

The foods you choose for your snacks need to fuel your body’s ability to meet each day’s activities optimally. Ideally, snacks should be a good balance of wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat. This way you achieve the maximum from the snack. Which healthful snacks to choose will depend largely on individual taste preferences and they should be based on what’s right for you.

Some helpful hints:

  • Portion out your snacks in advance
  • Avoid grazing throughout the day and plan snacks at appropriate times.
  • Stick to 2-3 small snacks in your day, between your main meals.
  • Snack on in-season produce
  • Enjoy a variety of snacks
  • Always read the nutrition labels and ingredient list on products
  • Avoid choosing anything that is high in empty calories (e.g. pastries, donuts, cookies, cakes, potato chips, candy, and sugary beverages and fruit juice)
  • Allow yourself the occasional indulgence instead of cutting these out completely and feeling deprived.
  • A good motto to stick to – if it came from a plant you can eat it. If it was made in a plant, rather don’t.
  • Take a closer look at your TV-viewing habits.
    • Did you know research shows that we tend to reach for more non-nutritious snacks when watching TV due to the high number of junk food ads that they will see. The solution: avoid mindless snacking in front of the TV.
  • Boost your veg intake by snacking on vegetables.
    • Vegetables add additional vitamin A, C, K, folacin, potassium, and fiber to the diet. Snack on a rainbow of veggies: red, green, yellow, and orange peppers; carrots; a small spinach salad; broccoli; and cauliflower.
    • It is also a great way to add anticancer foods into your diet.

Some healthy examples to keep you snacks on track:

  • Trail mix with whole grain cereal and dried fruit and nuts
  • Natural fruit and nut bars – but check the nutrition label and make sure that they are not high in added sugar
  • Fresh fruit (think of a tennis ball as a good portion size) and plain yoghurt
  • One moderate fruit with optional nut butter or nuts
  • Homemade smoothies: Plain yoghurt, fruit, nuts and baby spinach
  • Lean venison or ostrich biltong and some unsalted nuts
  • 1 boiled egg with pesto and veggie sticks
  • Tuna salad plus 1 slice whole-wheat bread (1/2 sandwich)
  • Freshly ground peanut butter plus apple slices
  • Hummus plus carrot sticks
  • 1/4 cup almonds plus a banana
  • Veggie sticks and low-fat dip
  • Seed crackers and low fat cottage cheese or hummus

 

For some more examples, why not visit our recipe page here

 

Munchwize Dietitians are based in Cape Town, in Claremont.

To make an appointment, click here
Reference: Today’s Dietitian , Vol. 12 No. 9 P. 32, Lindsey Getz