There’s no need to deprive yourself between meals – you just need to choose your snacks wisely, explains Sharon Hunt.
The days of three square meals are long gone. A thoughtfully-chosen snack can tide you over between meals and keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders. However, where many of us come unstuck is our snack selection. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than a third of our average energy intake comes from “discretionary foods”, in other words biscuits, chips and confectionery. In order to snack smarter, dietitian Jessica Spendlove says our perception of snacks as “guilty treats” needs a readjustment. “When done well, snacks can add much nutritional value and boost energy levels,” Jessica says. “But when done poorly they offer minimal nutritional value and excess kilojoule intake, leading to a drop in energy levels.” Before your next snack attack hits, consider these nutritionist-recommended criteria.
Powered by protein
“The benefit of a protein-rich snack is to manage appetite, stabilise blood sugar and keep you satisfied into the afternoon and evening,” Jessica explains. They also ward off those 3pm sugar cravings. “When our energy and blood sugar drops we crave sugar to pick us up,” says nutritionist Fiona Tuck. “Protein helps maintain energy and prevent these drops.” A handful of nuts or a boiled egg does the trick. Craving chocolate? Try a low-sugar protein bar like Aussie Bodies Lo Carb Whip’d, $3.99 (left).
Go for grains
When true hunger pangs strike, you need a wholesome snack that’s going to satisfy. (Otherwise you’ll inevitably find yourself reaching for the bickie tin!) Wholegrain foods do just that, but Fiona warns against heavily-processed grain snacks such as white bread or sugary cereals “Look for products where you can see the whole seeds, nuts and grains,” she advises. Wholegrain foods fill you up and boost energy, with the bonus of a fibre hit.
Health guidelines advise women consume five serves of vegetables and two of fruit daily – yet most of us are way off the mark. “Snacks are a great chance to top up on foods or nutrients which people are often lacking in their diet, such as vegetables and whole fruit,” says Jessica. Grab-and-go fruits like bananas and apples are classics, or mix it up with veggie crudités and ice-blended smoothies.
Unlock the combination
The holy grail of snacks combine protein, fat and carbohydrate, which when consumed together keep you satisfied for longer. “Protein maintains energy, fats help us feel satiated and slow the release of sugars from the carbs (as do proteins) helping prevent blood sugar highs and lows which can affect our energy, hunger, mood and hormones,” says Jessica. Think cheese on grain crackers, peanut butter and banana wholemeal toast or yoghurt with berries and muesli.