Snacking can play an important part of our diet. It can help to ensure we get all the energy and nutrients we need for the day and prevent us from becoming too hungry. The number of snacks a person may need in a day depends on their energy requirements. Some of us may need 2 -3 snacks while those who are less active, may not need snacks at all.
When we choose snacks it's important to avoid the ones which are energy dense and nutrient poor. This means they are usually high in sugar or fat and do not provide us with much in the way of other nutrients. Think of your packet items that are highly processed, examples include: fizzy drinks, chippies, chocolate, biscuits and muffins.
A snack is a mini meal, so if you wouldn't add it to your dinner plate, why have it as a snack? The best snacks to choose are ones, which are going to help fill us up and provide us with some nutrition. This means choosing mostly whole-food snacks, which contain carbohydrates, protein or healthy fats and are packed full of vitamins and minerals. That's not to say there's no allowance for eating chocolate or cake, if you feel like eating something sweet, or savoury, then do! Watch your portion size and eat it mindfully.
Smart snack options include:
- Plain unsweetened yoghurt and fresh fruit
- A small handful of raw nuts
- A piece of fruit
- Vegetable sticks and hummus
- Rice crackers with tuna or salmon
- Wholegrain toast with peanut butter or vegemite
- Fruit or vegetable smoothie
- A boiled egg
- Half an avocado
However, like with any food, it is important to watch the portions of the food you are eating.
A healthy portion size for a snack is:
- 1 pottle of yoghurt
- 1 small handful of nuts (approx 10 almonds or 3 brazil nuts)
- 1 piece of fruit (fits into the palm of your hand)
How to handle 3pm cravings
If you find that you reach 3pm and you are craving sugar or chocolate, try these useful tips:
- Ensure your lunch contains some fibre, healthy fats and protein. This will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Listen to your body. Are you physically hungry or are you craving something sweet because you are stressed or in need of comfort? Look at other ways of fulfilling that need such as, taking some time out, listening to music or practicing meditation.
Try having a glass of water first. Sometimes we can confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger.
Don’t have foods around you that you find hard to resist.
Allow yourself all foods, for when you want them. Foods that aren't allowed are suddenly way more appealing. If you find yourself craving chocolate, allow yourself that chocolate. Sit down and enjoy it. There is no point telling yourself you’re not allowed chocolate as chances are you will end up snacking on something else before finally caving in and eating some chocolate as well.