Snacking for Success

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When following a calorie-controlled diet, many people start out with a huge amount of motivation but after a while, feel like they are being deprived of food. This is normally because our bodies have been used to eating in a particular way (for most of us that means taking on too many calories with our food choices).  When we start to reduce our food intake, or make different food choices, our bodies will take time to adjust.  One sure fire way to ‘fall off the wagon’ is to leave yourself feeling hungry for big chunks of the day.  It’s not fun and it’s not sustainable.  If we try to only eat at traditional meal times you may find yourself having breakfast at 7am, lunch at 1pm and dinner at 7pm.  Dividing your daily calorie allowance by these three meals alone may leave you feeling hungry for long periods of the day and trying to fight your body’s natural instinct to eat. This often feels frustrating and gets us reaching for the biscuit tin.

A good way to get around this is to plan snacks into our day, putting in as much thought as we do for our main meals. Spend some time doing the maths – make sure you include 3 snacks within your daily calorie allowance. You’ll be taking in the same number of calories, they will just be more evenly spread throughout the day.

Our bodies crave food for a number of reasons.  It may be to relax, relieve stress, boredom or just out of habit. However, there is a biological reason we feel hunger.  To fight this is very difficult, however there are ways to reduce it.  If you haven’t eaten for a long period of time and you have an empty stomach, the body releases the hormone ghrelin which tells our brain we’re hungry.  If we are able to keep this hormone under control, (with regular food intake, making healthy choices) we are a lot less likely to make bad decisions on the spur of the moment because of a growling stomach.

Including snacks through the day will help to prevent this. After we eat the concentration of glucose in our blood is high. This causes insulin to be released to store the glucose in our blood from the meal we’ve just eaten and tells our brain that we are full.

It has been reported that the optimal energy content of a snack for those trying to lose weight is 100 calories. It is important to remember that if you are including 3 snacks this size in your daily intake the size of your other meals will have to be reduced slightly.

Below are 5 tips on how to achieve snacking success:

  1. Prep your snacks as you would do your meals - we’ve blogged about preparing your weekly meals on a Sunday, so if you are not already, spend some time thinking about your snacks too

  2. Serve out a portion of your chosen snack.  (DO NOT eat from the packet or jar!)

  3. Check the label to ensure you know how many calories you are going to be consuming before you eat your snack. This will also help you decide on the portion size

  4. If you choose a snack to eat, avoid having a calorific drink with it (a latte contains around 100 calories so it’s a snack in itself). Remember there are zero calories in a glass of water and it will be better for your body!

  5. Plan your snack for a certain time of the day (e.g. 10am, 4pm and 9pm).  Try different options and stick with what works best for you

Here are some 100 calorie snack ideas:

  • A large piece of fruit e.g. a banana or apple

  • 2 smaller pieces of fruit e.g. a kiwi or plum

  • 60g greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of honey

  • A boiled egg

  • A slice of wholegrain bread with a scraping of butter

  • A ryvita with a tablespoon of cream cheese and some sliced cucumber

  • Carrot sticks with a tablespoon of houmous

  • 15 almonds

  • 2 oatcakes with a teaspoon of clear honey

  • A slice of malt loaf topped with sliced strawberries

  • 1 crumpet

  • 25 grapes

  • A chocolate rice cake

  • Whey protein shake made with water

Feel free to share with us any great snacks you enjoy throughout your day!

Andy Letham