They're the things we reach for when there's just a little too long to wait until the next meal. Sometimes a source of comfort, sometimes energy and sometimes pure necessity!
Snacks can come in all forms, whether sweet or savoury and there are no rules about what exactly makes a snack a snack...But what should we be looking for when it comes to getting the most from them?
The Oxford dictionary defines a snack as 'a small amount of food eaten between meals'. This may be true, but I'm going to disagree a little...Who says a snack should be 'small'? Surely a snack should be whatever is required and appropriate to satiate hunger at any given moment?
Say it's 4.30pm, a long time since your lunch break and you're planning on doing a workout before heading home for dinner. Obviously your requirements will differ depending on what you ate for lunch, but this might be a time where a larger more nutrient dense snack would be appropriate - an apple probably isn't going to cut it!
Another thing to keep in mind is to eat when we are hungry, not waiting until 'meal times'. Doing so will inevitably end in eating more than you possibly need, or caving and reaching for something less nutritious because you're starving! If you're starving at 4pm, so be it! Eat what you require and adjust your evening meal accordingly.
The secret to successful snacking lies in what we eat and eating an appropriate amount for our needs. A little bit of knowledge and some forward planning can be really helpful.
When it comes to what to aim for in a snack there are a few basic principles to follow:
Try to include some protein in your snack. Protein will keep you feeling fuller and satiated for longer and snacks are a great way of increasing your intake of this important nutrient.
Snack mindfully. Try not to multitask while eating, or eat straight from a packet! How easy is it to get to the bottom before we even realise?! Take a break from whatever you're doing and eat an appropriate portion from a plate.
Have healthy snacks on hand. Keep them at your desk or easily available in the fridge or pantry (some examples are given below).
Drinks can count as snacks too! A latte, milo or protein shake are examples of this. Try adding a piece of fruit if you need a little more.
Make your snacks enjoyable! Have things on hand that you actually like, then you're less likely to be tempted by the mid-morning chocolate!
Another important thing to remember is that snacks should not replace your main meals. It's easy to fall into the trap of grazing, especially with an increasing number of us working from home - trust me, that's something I'm constantly working on! But snacks should be used as a way of fuelling our bodies between meals - rather than in place of.
Now that we are schooled up on the art of snacking, here are a few ideas to keep your snacks balanced, varied and enjoyable!
Fruit slices with nut butter - banana and apple are great for this. A banana with a large swipe of peanut butter is one of my go to pre-gym snacks!
Natural yoghurt and fruit.
Wholegrain crackers and hummus or cheese.
Air popped popcorn, add a little butter and salt to taste - not the stuff from a packet!
Bliss balls - if buying pre-made ones, take note of the serving size. Sometimes a packet is appropriate, sometimes one ball.
Vege sticks and hummus - keep veggies pre-cut in the fridge to make this easy!
Hard boiled eggs. These are great as they're easily portable.
A slice of wholegrain toast with avo and tomato, banana or peanut butter.
A handful of natural nuts.
Milky coffee and a piece of fruit.
Protein shake with berries and milk.
Homemade baking like fruity muffins or nut and seed slices.
Whole nut or seed bars. Be careful when choosing muesli bars - aim for bars that are low in sugar and with at least half of their ingredients coming from nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
A smaller portion of last nights leftovers is also a great option!
Hopefully this has given you a few ideas to turn to next time the snacking urge hits, as well as shown you what to look for when creating your own. If you've been inspired with some great ideas, let me know what they are - I'm always keen for something new!
Also, if you would like a recipe in a future blog for some healthy home made baking please be in touch - I've got plenty to share if anyone's interested.