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Snacking! It has become a bit of a minefield these days. There is so much faddy advice about snacking that I wanted to clear things up and put your mind at rest! I often get asked questions like “when is the best time to snack? ”, “what should I snack on?”, “How can I stop snacking on the wrong things?”. If you ever wondered about any of these things then good news! It doesn’t have to be complicated!
When is the best time to snack?
There is so much advice out there that you should/shouldn’t snack before/after exercise or you should eat every 2-3 hours and so on. It can get extremely stressful for those of us just trying to lose a bit of weight and keep it off. Unless you are an athlete with a very specific nutrition protocol for optimum performance then whether you snack before or after a workout is really personal!
If you function better in your workout after a snack then go for it! If you are always starving after a workout then that is YOUR best time for a snack. The best advice here is to listen to your body, see what makes you have more energy and base it on your hunger levels! If you are to stick to something as a way of life then it has to feel good and work for you!
IF you decide to snack before exercise then it is better to make sure you give yourself a bit of time to digest the snack so eat it about an hour before you exercise.
If you decide to snack after exercise then eating a snack within an hour of your workout will optimise your efforts.
If you don’t exercise at the moment but you aren’t sure whether to snack or not then think about your lifestyle here! If you grew up like me where you had 3 good meals a day and a snack after school then starting a nutrition regime that requires you to eat 5-6 times a day will be really annoying and alien to you. A lot of people I work with just don’t have time to eat that many times a day!
The trouble is, if you have dieted a lot then chances are your portions got smaller and smaller, lower and lower energy and so you have no choice BUT to snack. It creates a cycle of hunger. In my case I decided to add an extra half portion of everything I eat to lunch and dinner so I didn’t have to snack anymore! It is ok not to snack and it is ok to be a frequent grazer.
So have a think about in an ideal world whether you would even be a snacker or not? Or do you graze because you aren’t eating enough during proper meal times?
What should I snack on?
Snacking is a deeply personal experience. Some of us crave salt and some of us crave sugar. If you are trying to lose weight then balancing your snacks is going to be a great step in the right direction.
Your snack should contain fat, protein, starch and fruit or vegetable. So if you are craving sugar then make sure you have it with something to balance it. If you want chocolate for example, then have some but also make sure you have a piece of fruit, a bit of yoghurt or some berries and create balance that way. If you want a savoury snack then think about how to balance that. Toast with guacamole or hummus, vegetable or fruit and a small piece of cheese is another example.
Expanding your snack, making sure you have those food groups and that you eat enough at snack time is really key to your success. Balance means that you stay satisfied for longer. You are less likely to eat as much of the high-energy foods like crisps if you have them with a healthy dip!
Balanced snacks could include:
Wholegrain toast, peanut butter, banana
Pita chips, guacamole, piece of cheese
Hummus, bean dip, toast, cucumber slices
Chips and healthy dip, piece of fruit or vegetable sticks
Soup is an amazing snack when you are on the go, provided it is a balanced soup including not just vegetables but a legume to make it filling.
Smoothies can be good as long as they are also balanced. Just blended fruit, raises your blood sugar quickly and doesn’t serve you as well as a balanced smoothie which would contain fat (coconut oil, avocado), protein (nuts, yoghurt, milks), fruit such as berries.
Figuring out what your snacking motive is will really help you to combat certain cravings and prevent them. Think about:
If your snacking is uncontrollable then chances are you are either not eating enough throughout the day (skipping meals) or it is filling another void. Learning what motivates you to snack uncontrollably is going to allow you to prevent it in the future.
We can often label ourselves with addiction to sugar or salt. Whilst this may be true and you feel like you can’t control your snacking around certain foods then there are lots of ways to deal with them. If you are really attached to a certain food then think about what it is you are actually craving. Many people reach for salty, high-energy foods. If this is you then the craving of high-energy food is associated with salt. The addiction is to the potato chip rather than the salt itself.
Try to scratch the itch by experimenting with different things. Deal with your energy requirement first and foremost. Don’t go into a snacking session starving! Fill the gap and then snack if you still want to on the thing you crave.
The same goes for the sugar. These days there is an absolute war on sugar, unfortunately that has given fruit a bad reputation. Fruit isn’t bad for you! Eating fruit alone might not fill the gap a piece of cake would. This is because a slice of cake usually has carbohydrate, fat and sugar! So if you want to eat an apple, have it with a yoghurt, some nuts, crackers. Learn to balance what you crave. If you want that slice of cake then have it but don’t go into the situation starving. If you do then you will eat a much bigger piece than you need. Think about what you can have with a smaller piece of cake to scratch the itch?
Every snack is an opportunity to get nutrients into your body. When we think about convenience snacks then how often do they contain a fruit or vegetable? Not very often! Most snack foods available are processed and contain very little useful nutrition. Always strive to get as much goodness into your body rather than cutting things out!
Finally, it is often the case that we are so used to the idea of a food being uncontrollable that anything anyone suggests to help gets pushed aside. Try to keep an open mind and not box yourself in! Just TRY one thing, then the next and then the next. It is worth it to keep your mind open to trying new things, new ways to eat and to think!
As always, drop me comment below, plus don’t forget to join my private Facebook Group if you haven’t done so already……and remember The Full-Bodied Evolution Members Club has a wealth of materials and a growing community of like-minded people to help you on your weight loss journey! Plus, you can always find me on both Instagram and Pinterest for more lifestyle food and fitness tips!