Snacking tends to take prevalence during the autumn/winter months; the ‘chill factor’ and shorter days have a canny way of increasing the appetite. Plus, with shorts, cut-offs and vests stashed away for another year, it can be tempting to let those extra calories creep up. If you’re aiming for a leaner version you, it’s best to nip this in the bud.
How do you tackle this issue, so you can stay in control of what passes your lips, and not lose sight of your goals? Well, there is such a thing as smart snacking. Below are some examples of what you can reach for when the munchies strike.
First of all, define whether or not you’re physically hungry.
‘Durgh! Obviously I’m hungry… that’s why I’m hunting around for something to eat!’ I hear you say. However, it can be easy to confuse appetite with true hunger. The latter will have some obvious, physical indicators – like an empty, ‘rumbling’ stomach, and generally, a feeling of being ravenous.
The appetite, however, is subject to stimulation throughout the day, driven by a number of factors. Even if you’ve eaten recently, it’s easy to salivate at the site of something delicious – whether it’s that donut on your Facebook News Feed, a promotional email for a pizza menu, or a burger on a billboard you pass. Food’s everywhere, and we’re hard-wired to crave it! Usually though, appetite will diminish by becoming absorbed in something else, whereas hunger is near impossible to avert your attention from.
The first rule of smart snacking is to eat when truly hungry. A slight exception can be made if you’re super-lean and aiming to pack on size – but this is a different topic altogether*. The key is always nutrient density – i.e. eating foods that offer high nutritional value, relative to their size, as opposed to empty, ‘junk’ calories.
*If you’re part of this group, don’t worry – I’ll cover this in a future blog post!
Generally speaking, protein and healthy, natural fats should be the main components, as these have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels. Thus, you’ll stay sated for longer, and will receive a decent dose of nutrients to boost. To support fat loss, carbs should be avoided in snacks where possible – or moderated.
- Nuts, seeds and their butters
- Veggie or chicken soup – a good quality brand, or home-made
- Greek yoghurt
- Vegetable crisps
- Dark chocolate
- A protein shake
- A protein bar
Whilst some are self-explanatory, here are some examples of tasty, healthy snacks using the above:
- Sliced avocado with crispy bacon pieces on top, and/or a spoonful of tomato salsa.
- Hummus with a few veggie sticks dunked in.
- Greek yogurt with a sprinking of nuts/seeds (or a swirl of nut butter), and grated dark chocolate. A handful of berries is a great, low-sugar addition.
- Apple slices dipped in peanut butter.
- A protein smoothie: whey protein with a handful of berries added and a spoonful of nut butter, or ground flax seeds.
- Protein Hot Chocolate (for when it’s too cold for a regular shake!)
- A Grenade Carb Killa, Quest Protein, or Reflex R Bar.
I’m not going to patronise you and go over portion sizes. As a rule of thumb, eat slowly until you’re satisfied, and don’t go nuts (excuse the pun). A small handful of everything is about right; for example, a ‘match box’ portion of cheese is a good guide (not those boxes you can get in camping shops that contain 1,000 matches and are the size of a small house). Three to four squares of dark chocolate is a moderate serving – not a family-sized bar of Dairy Milk.
- Hobnob biscuits
- (You know all this...)
I hope the above provides some useful ideas for handling a snack attack!