Snacking in between meals has become part of eating plans, and if you plan things well, it doesn’t have to derail your entire diet.
Many people enjoy snacking between meals, but often we forget that snacks can be part of a healthy eating pattern. They can help you get important nutrients, keep you energised and satisfy your hunger between meals.
Tiger Brands’ Eat Well Live Well: State of Nutrition Report 2021 found this to be true, especially after the peak of the pandemic in SA.
According to the study, there have been some noticeable snacking trend changes. Fifty-one percent of South Africans were eating more snacks in August 2020 than in April 2020, compared to twenty-nine per cent in May 2021.
This suggests that we have possibly become more cognisant of portion control and more mindful eating behaviours or that our eating behaviours have possibly been impacted by the financial hard knocks of the lockdown.
The global trend towards ‘mindful eating’ involves making smarter choices around what we eat and how much we eat, but also when we eat it.
Kershnee Kallee, Marketing Manager for Jungle South Africa, says: “In the morning, especially just after waking up, our cortisol levels are at their highest – this can increase the motivation to eat or snack on sugary treats. But to avoid a sugar high and the inevitable drop that comes after it, we recommend reaching for slow-digesting carbohydrates. Similarly, mid-afternoon is where a lot of individuals experience an energy slump. That’s when it’s better to opt for snacks like bars that get your internal engines firing again.”
Kallee shares a few snack suggestions for the morning and afternoon:
- Morning snacks to get you moving.
- A handful of nuts: These are a great source of plant-based protein and reap a number of health benefits.
- Homemade trail mix: This could include nuts, popcorn, dried fruit, high-fibre crackers or biltong.
- For a snack that contains all of the above (and more), reach for a cereal bar.
- Afternoon snacking when energy is lacking.
- A cup of plain yoghurt: Being a fermented milk product, yoghurt is full of probiotics, which are made up of good bacteria and are known to help reduce inflammation and allergies and boost the immune system. Add a teaspoon of honey to sweeten.
- A piece of fruit (or a snack that contains fruit).
While some people might have grasped mindful eating, others are still struggling.
Shelly Bowien, registered dietitian at Alex Royal Dietetics, says: “It’s so easy to grab a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate when you’re bored or peckish in the house and haven’t had time to prepare healthy snacks. Or, you may think that snacking on a lot of fruit (which is actually very high in sugar) is the healthy choice?”
Ideally, Bowien says that you should be filling up on vegetable-based snacks, which help you to control the calories and also keep your blood sugar quite level. Make your own hummus with tahini, garlic, chickpeas and lemons and then dip carrots, cucumbers and other crisp veggies into it.
Here is a list of other healthy snacks to consider.
Baby carrots with hummus
Carrots are crunchy, tasty, and highly nutritious. Carrots are a particularly good source of beta carotene, fibre, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots and hummus are a great snack as is, but adding a sprinkle of seasoning will make your taste buds extra happy.
Dates and pistachios
Including dates, in smaller quantities, in your daily diet can help you keep a check on cholesterol levels and even assist in weight loss.
Dates have a honey-like sweetness, which combines with the strong flavour of pistachios into a snack that feels like dessert.
Homemade unsalted popcorn
Popcorn is high in several important nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and polyphenol antioxidants. Not only that, but it is also incredibly tasty and one of the world's best sources of fibre. Consuming it in moderation may even help with weight loss.
Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet may be good for your heart. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. Nuts are great snack food — inexpensive, easy to store and easy to pack when you're on the go.
Dried fruit can boost your fibre and nutrient intake and supply your body with large amounts of antioxidants. Fibre fights heart disease, obesity, and some types of cancer (although its possible protective effect against colon cancer is controversial).
No matter what kind of eating plan you are on, snacking doesn’t have to put your diet at risk. Just like you have to be a little bit more mindful of what you eat, cut yourself some slack and make allowance for the fact that you will want to snack in between meals and with a bit of preparation, it can be a healthy snack that boosts your diet.