Many of my clients are confused about what a snack is, whether they should snack and if they wish to do so, what they should choose to snack on.
Snacks are really just a smaller amount of food than one would normally consume at a meal time and are typically eaten in between the usual 3 meals a day.
Studies have shown that snacking can help to keep your metabolism burning and can also prevent ravenous hunger which often leads to overeating at the next meal time, eating quickly and poorer food choices. Snacking can also help to keep blood sugar levels from dropping too low; this will improve your concentration and energy levels.
I am an advocate of snacking as I find I perform and feel best if I eat regularly.
If you want to snack, it is most important to plan your snacks ahead of time rather than trying to find something when you are feeling hungry. If you are at the mercy of a vending machine or convenience store, most snack options are high in sugar and/or fat and low in nutritional value, not to mention, expensive.
What to snack on?
This really is a personal choice (for example, savoury vs sweet) and will also depend on time of year/seasonal availability of certain foods. The typical guidelines are that snacking should help contribute to the vital nutrients we require every day for good health (e.g. iron, calcium, fibre). Other than that, energy guidelines are that
– if trying to lose weight, keep your snacks to around 100 calories (420kJ)
– if maintaining weight, up to 200 calories (840kJ)
– if trying to gain weight, around 300 calories (1260kJ) or more is a good target
To give you an idea of 100 calories – a typical large piece of fruit (apple (200g), banana or pear) has around 100 calories as does around 150g low fat natural yoghurt or approximately 1 slice, depending on the brand (weight of 45g) of bread
The average person will burn 100 calories when walking briskly or gardening for 30 minutes, cleaning the house for 40 minutes, cycling on a stationary bike for 20 minutes or dancing for 25 minutes.
You will find that most of my snack ideas are around 100-150 calories