Snacking, which ones to have and when..
I am always asked about snacking ideas, as one of the toughest parts of eating healthily is falling down on sweets/ fizzy drinks/ chocolate and crisps etc. All of which are empty calories and add to your on-going sugar cravings. To help you lose weight you need to be eating little and often. If you get to lunchtime and are starving you are much more likely to over order at the sandwich bar and chuck in a chocolate bar and fizzy drink. You are also more likely to snack all afternoon on more sugary bits and bobs to keep your energy up and cravings at bay.
The secret is to keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day by snacking on quality foods between your meals. In order to do this you want to be eating protein with your carbs to help slow the breakdown of carbohydrates and reduce the sugary snacks to minimise the insulin spikes throughout the day
Below are various snacks that are healthy, will keep your sugar levels even throughout the day and help you with your weight loss goals. I have also added which are best for pre and post workouts snacks. As a general rule you want 3:1 carbs to protein before a workout and 3:1 protein to carbs after a workout. Carbs help with your energy levels and protein helps with muscle repair. Also, ideally eat your post workout snack within 30 minutes to an hour.
Why they’re good: Bananas are full of carbohydrates. They are a good source of vitamin B6, which is vital for managing protein metabolism.
When they’re good: Before, during, or after exercise. They’re great blended into a fruit breakfast smoothie. Or simply whip frozen banana chunks with milk in a blender for a delicious recovery shake.
Why they’re good: Carrots are low in calories, but filling. This makes them excellent if you’re watching your weight. They contain carotene and vitamin A, which promote eye health and a strong immune system.
When they’re good: Eat them at night when you want something to munch but don’t want extra calories. Or eat them before dinner if you’re famished. This way, you won’t overindulge once you sit down for your meal.
Why they’re good: A cereal bar will satisfy your sweet cravings, without chocolate bar. And unlike chocolate bars, cereal bars also come with B vitamins and iron. Check the label first though as many low fat/ low calorie options are full of artificial sweeteners and additives. Best to go for natural looking bars with no E numbers.
When they’re good: Whenever you feel like satisfying your sweet tooth.
Nuts (unroasted and unsalted)
Why it’s good: Nuts are a great source of monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, copper, protein and fibre. Plus they are rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Plus they are really filling.
When they are good: As an anytime snack and post workout as they are a great source of protein. People seem to freak about nuts and how many calories they contain. Nuts are good for you and as long as you don’t polish off the packet in one go it is fine to snack on nuts while watching what you eat.
Why it’s good: Nutrient rich- Vitamins E, B1, B5, K, Manganese, Magnesium, folate, zinc, protein. Have been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, lower cholesterol and neutralise free radicals.
When are they good: Anytime. They are quite filling and are great on their own or mixed in with salads.
Why it’s good: It’s packed with protein, which is great for a post workout snack to help with muscle rebuilding and repair. It serves as a good calcium source as well.
When it’s good: Any time except just before exercise.
Why they’re good: These chewy little morsels are low in fat and high in carbohydrate, and provide a decent amount of vitamin A, fibre and potassium.
When they’re good: Any time. Toss chopped apricots over your cereal at breakfast, or eat whole ones plain before your afternoon training session or as a sweet treat after dinner.
Why they’re good: Prunes (dried plums) contain no fat and are packed with carbohydrates. They’re also a good source of fibre and potassium. Eating potassium-rich foods such as prunes helps lower high blood pressure.
When they’re good: Prunes make a healthy snack almost any time. But don’t eat them just before your exercise, as they can act as a laxative!
Why they’re good: Designed especially for athletes, you can choose from high-carb bars, protein recovery bars, or ones that contain a mixture of carbs, protein and even vitamins. They’re tasty and come in all kinds of flavours. Not a great option unless you are training hard though as they are calorie dense and could just wipe out all the good work you have done in the gym. Good option if you are in a rush after a workout but there are much better options if your overall goal is weight loss.
When they’re good: Post-exercise. Liquid energy is better during or just before exercise. Not meant for an anytime snack.
Why they’re good: This refreshing, low-calorie treat is loaded with vitamin C, which fortifies your immune system and helps boost iron absorption. (Make sure you choose lollies made with fruit juice, rather than sugary artificial versions.)
When they’re good: They’re great any time.
Why it’s good: Yoghurt is a great source of calcium, protein and potassium – and it’s low in fat and fairly high in carbohydrates. The live and active cultures added to certain types of yoghurt (often called ‘bio’) will also boost your immune system. Don’t go for the low fat options as all the goodness has been removed and artificial sweeteners have been added to help with the taste. Full fat all the way!
When it’s good: Any time, its good for pre and post workout or whenever you feel like it.
Why they’re good: Fresh tomatoes, peppers, sliced onion and mushrooms piled on a ready-made pizza base and lightly sprinkled with low-fat mozzarella or feta cheese. A slice of pizza supplies energy from the carb-rich base, protein and bone-strengthening calcium from the cheese and a range of vitamins and phytochemicals from the vegetables.
When they’re good: Post exercise or an anytime snack. Have a slice though not the whole thing!
Hummus on pitta bread
Why it’s good: Split the pitta bread and toast until crisp. Then simply break into pieces and use instead of cracker biscuits. This filling snack packs plenty of protein, fibre, vitamin B6 and folic acid. The latter is especially important for a healthy pregnancy, and has recently been shown to prevent anaemia and breast cancer.
When it’s good: Hummus works well as a mid-morning or afternoon snack..
Why it’s good: Studies show that a bowl of porridge helps lower cholesterol. Porridge will also fill you with plenty of carbohydrates to boost energy and alertness.
When it’s good: An excellent meal/ snack before a workout, or whenever you wake up feeling hungry and ready for a hearty breakfast.
Wholemeal bagel/ Ryvita with peanut butter
Why they’re good: Wholemeal bagels and ryvitas are much better for you than white refined breads as they will reduce the insulin spike and rise in blood sugar levels. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It also contains vitamin E, which helps with muscle recovery.
When they’re good: A perfect filling snack for mid-morning or mid-afternoon or post workout.
Why they’re good: If you use fruit and milk, smoothies (made by blending frozen fruit such as bananas, with milk, orange juice and ice) are an easy way to consume a healthy dose of calcium, potassium and vitamins C and A.
When they’re good: Anytime really- a smoothie works well for breakfast, before a workout, or as a refreshing, re-energising, post workout snack.
Smoked ham and cheese wholemeal bagel
Why it’s good: Wholemeal bagels are a conveniently-sized source of complex carbs, while smoked ham is an excellent source of protein and folic acid. A light slathering of cream cheese will provide additional calcium and potassium. Top it off with a sliced tomato and red onion and you’ll add vitamin C, vitamin A and antioxidants as well.
When it’s good: As a post workout snack or light meal.
Why it’s good: Tuna comes with protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Research shows that men who eat at least 80-100g of fish per week are less likely to die of a heart attack, and that women who eat at least two servings of fish per week reduce their risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
When it’s good: Perfect for lunch or an afternoon snack. Consider a tuna salad with mayonnaise and sliced tomatoes on granary bread.