The rise of packaged snacks and more sedentary time spent sitting on our bums leaves us thinking about and wanting food between meals. But do we actually need to snack? Is it healthy to snack to keep your body burning fuel between meals or is it better to give it a rest?
As a nutritionist, I regularly see how snacking can be contributing to my client’s poor health and also how it can help them achieve their goals. It really depends on you, what you’re snacking on and how often you snack.
How snacking can be healthy
- Adding in some snacks during the day gives your more opportunities for eating fruit and vegetables. Snack wisely and you’re closer to your 2 and 5.
- Keeping topped up may stop you getting too hungry before meals and overeating or making poor food choices.
- If you’re cutting down your meal portions as a weight loss strategy, snacking can help you feel satisfied with smaller portions.
- If you have a low appetite, and only manage small meals, snacking can help you get in your nutritious food group serves.
- Kids need snacks as they have such small tummies. They’re unlikely to get all they need in a day in three meals.
How snacking can be unhealthy
But snacking isn’t always good.
- Snacking between meals can lead to overeating and weight gain. It’s a quick and easy way to go over your energy intake threshold without realising.
- Snacking gives us an excuse to eat more treats and sometimes foods than we need. We’ve redefined snack to mean a treat.
- Portions count. Even healthy choices like fruit and nuts can be execessive if we didn’t need them.
- Our bodies love routine, both our brain and gut get in on the action and before you know it your tummy will be rumbling if you were considering missing that 3pm boredom snack – even if you don’t really need it.
My top tips for healthy snacking
It doesn’t actually matter if you’re a snacker or not, putting effort into your diet quality over he whole day is what’s important.
If you can’t imagine getting through the day without a snack or two between meals, here’s my top tips.
- Vegetables are always OK. You can’t get enough of non-starchy vegetables (starchy vegetables are potatoes, sweet potatoes etc.)
- Portion size matters, eat just enough to take the edge off your hunger. You still want to be hungry for your next meal.
- Make sure you are hungry and not eating from habit, boredum, or frustration.
- Be prepared with healthy snacks that are portioned and ready to go.
- If you’re often hungry between meals, your body might be trying to tell you it wanted a bigger breakfast or lunch. Add some more veggies and lean protein.
Healthy Snack Ideas
- A piece of fruit
- Plain yoghurt + fruit
- Cut up vegetable sticks and a tablespoon of hommus or tzatziki
- Wholegrain crackers, sliced tomato and salt and pepper
- A small handful of nuts (10-12) preferably skin on and unsalted
- My savoury muffins, or
- A green smoothie.
I’m definitely a snacker, are you?
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist. She has 10 years’ experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and wants you to know that activated unicorn berries are not the answer to your health and wellness. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.