Sunday, 20 January 2013

STEPS 9 - How do your snacks stack up?

For some of us, snacking can actually be the undoing of all our good work at meal times.  I've seen it so many times where almost textbook meals are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and yet between those meals, a heap of counteractive snacking happens!

The way I see it there are two types of snacks, planned and incidental.

Planned snacks are those that you set out to have in a day and make time for.  A lunchbox addition for school or work, or something to eat at home or when out and about between meals.  More often than not they are a typical snack size portion and a more healthy choice (although not always!).

Incidental snacks are those cumulative little eats throughout the day, and often in addition to planned snacks.  Perhaps its putting your hand in the pantry and grabbing a couple of squares of chocolate, and then going back an hour later for another couple of squares.  Or finishing the scraps your kids didn't eat - a cracker here and there.  Or walking past the lunch room at work and grabbing a bikkie on the way to a meeting.  Ring any bells???!!! 

If you are trying to lose or maintain weight, these incidental snacks can really be the downfall to your goals.  Before you know it you've eaten the equivalent to a whole chocolate bar, packet of bikkies, or even bottle of soft drink (if you swig a drink each time you walk past the fridge!!).  And think what that looks like over a week/month/year!!  They could easily add up to a couple of thousand kilojoules before you even start to count your main meals and planned snacks.   Whats worse though in my mind, these incidental snacks can be filling you up, resulting in less of your nutrient packed main meals being eaten.

Having said all of that, snacking can be really positive too, and there are benefits to snacking during the day.
  • Snacks can help us reach the recommended fruit and veg serves/day.  Having vegie sticks with cheese or dips, fruit platters, or even a healthy carrot cake/muffin can all count towards the 5 serves veg/ 2 serves fruit recommendation.
  • The right snacks can help to maintain blood sugar levels between main meals and avoid those mid afternoon 'slumps'.  
  • The right snacks can help us to not over-eat at our main meals, particularly dinner.  If we are 'starving' going into a main meal, it is more likely we will reach for a larger serve, seconds and possibly even poorer food choices.
OK so what snacks should we be eating then?  Whilst I am not really into counting kilojoules, if you have in mind that a general allowance for snacks should be around 400-500kj, you will quickly realise what really constitutes a snack and what is probably more like a meal! For example, a blueberry muffin from a leading muffin store in Australia contains 2,120kj, 21g fat and 32g sugar!!!!! (and the ingredient list is just as alarming -
Ingredients: Hi Fibre Muffin Mix (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Soya Flour, Lupin Bran, Milk Solids, Egg
Powder, Raising Agents (341,450,500), Humectant (420), Emulsifier (481), Wheat Gluten, Flavour,
Thickeners (415,464), Colour (160(B))), Water, Blueberries (16%), Canola Oil.  Not a lot of recognisable ingredients that you can put into your own muffins - seeds, whole grains, fruit/veg, natural yogurt, real eggs etc etc)!

So here are some snack ideas that will not only be lower in kj, but really add something to your nutrient intake for the day!

  • Air popped popcorn (high in fiber, no fat, good source of energy)
  • Small handful of raw nuts/seeds (unsalted!)
  • a small tub of natural yogurt with a sprinkle of natural muesli and a drizzle of pure maple syrup (great source of calcium, fiber, and really filling!)
  • apple and pear slices dipped in smooth ricotta cheese mixed with a spoon of raw honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon (source of calcium, fiber and a heap of vitamins and minerals including antioxidants)
  • carrot, cucumber and celery sticks dipped in natural yogurt - could be flavoured with mint leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice (source of fiber, calcium, antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals)
  • A handful of berries whizzed up with a cup of milk, dollop of natural yogurt, a spoon of chia seeds and a drizzle of raw honey to make a satisfying smoothie (packed with calcium, antioxidants, and a heap of minerals from the chia seeds)
  • 1/2 cup of homemade custard (minimal sugar added or none at all given the sweetness that will come from the fruit) poured over sliced apricot, apple or berries.
  • Rice/corn cakes spread with avocado and slices of tomato with a sprinkle of sumac, salt and pepper.
  • A slice of my Naturally sweetened 4 seed banana loaf
And so the task for this fortnight (and beyond) is to:
  1. evaluate your current list of snacks that you consume regularly, thinking about the portion size, nutrient value, how processed they are, how many snacks eaten each day.
  2. Be mindful of any 'incidental snacking', what you think may trigger it, and what you could do to reduce this (distractions, glass of water, grab a carrot instead!)
  3. Improve your current choices by choosing snacks that actually add value to your daily nutrient consumption.  Work on reducing the processed snacks and replacing them with foods closer to their natural state.
As always, tune in to Mellymaks facebook page for tips and tricks, and please share your favourite healthy snacking ideas with the rest of us!  I would think we could all do with some new ideas to snack on!



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