Yesterday we looked at the timing of meals and snacks to keep blood sugar stable. However, the second part of the snacking puzzle is what you choose to eat.
When I say “snack” most people think of simple carbohydrates, like fruit or biscuits, or total junk foods like doughnuts with a morning coffee, and vending machine staples like crisps and chocolate. Clearly these foods are going to give a quick sugar rush followed by a crash soon after. But there are plenty of healthy snacks out there. More balanced snacks with protein, healthy fats and fibre will keep you feeling full for longer, and can help you get your five portions of fruit and veg a day. Healthy options for snacks could include fresh or dried fruit with a small handful of nuts/seeds (raw not salted), a couple of oatcakes with hummus or peanut butter, or some carrot/celery sticks with hummus or cottage cheese. It can also help to think of every eating occasion as simply another “meal”, rather than a “snack”. For some reason we are more likely to have vegetables and protein as part of meals rather than snacks.
The second problem is portion size. Snacking can lead to weight gain if snacks are simply added to large meals. For example, if a woman who needs 2000 kcal a day has 500 kcal at breakfast, 700 kcal at lunch and 700 kcal at dinner, that’s a healthy 1900kcal a day. However, if she then adds another 500 kcal of snacks on top, of course it will lead to weight gain. As usual, it’s simply a case of too many calories.
In my case, my afternoon “meal” is usually about the same size as my other meals, but what goes into it depends on whether it’s before training or after a gym session. If it’s before training, I try to include more carbohydrates and less protein and fat, whereas after training I make sure I get at least 20g of protein. Either way, I try to keep each of my four meals between 400 and 500 calories. When I worked in an office where I had to get up early and had breakfast before 7am, I would have both a morning and afternoon snack, each of around 250 kcal.
I would also say, beware of grazing. For some people snacking isn’t about a single eating occasion, with a start and finish time. Rather, it’s a large bag of Smarties they eat over the course of an afternoon, or a package of crisps eaten over two hours in front of the TV. The issue with extended eating periods is you never really feel full so you never really feel like stopping. Your body doesn’t get the same signals as at the end of a meal, so hunger hormones are not turned on and off properly. What’s more, this can keep blood sugar levels higher than normal for extended periods, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
So if snacking to you means a big bag of crisps over the course of an evening in front of the TV, then yes, this is a bad thing and will probably lead to weight gain. However, if having four or five smaller, healthy meals and/or snacks means you hit the gym with plenty of energy and avoid overeating at dinner, then snacking can have real benefits.
The Score for 18 March:
|Calories burned through exercise:||148|
What I ate:
|08:30||Centrum Multivitamin, Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg|
|Soft boiled eggs, 2 large||115g||150||14.49||0.00||0.00||0.00||10.35||2.88||0.00|
|Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices toasted||63g||159||1.58||28.35||1.51||6.30||4.16||0.32||0.00|
|and St Dalfour Raspberry fruit spread||17g||40||0.09||9.52||9.52||0.34||0.14||0.00||0.00|
|12:30||Sainsbury’s spicy tomato, lentil and red pepper soup||300g||195||11.10||26.40||10.80||5.40||3.90||0.30||0.00|
|with Baked chicken breast added||42g||56||13.40||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.80||0.25||0.00|
|Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers||28g||128||2.97||16.49||0.50||2.13||4.70||1.85||0.00|
|15:15||Sherwood Pines hiking|
|16:00||Pulsin Protein snack bar, maple and peanut||50g||227||13.10||12.80||8.80||4.50||12.70||4.00||0.00|
|Hot semi-skimmed milk||about 300mL||150||10.80||14.40||14.40||0.00||5.40||3.30||0.00|
|with vanilla shot||1 pump||20||0.00||5.00||4.90||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|17:15||Snickers Protein bar||51g||199||18.20||18.40||9.50||0.00||7.10||2.70||0.00|
|19:45||Evexia Ricotta Spinach tortelloni gluten free||125g||270||8.13||44.75||1.38||7.88||4.88||2.75||0.00|
|Morrisons The Best Tomato & Italian Chianti sauce||155g||106||2.79||9.30||8.53||5.12||5.43||0.47||0.00|
|Tesco Parmigiano Reggiano||3g||12||0.97||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.89||0.59||0.00|
|Morrisons Mediterranean style salad||100g||25||1.10||3.50||3.10||1.40||0.40||0.10||0.00|
|with Tesco French Dressing||1 tbsp||13||0.10||2.20||1.70||0.10||0.40||0.05||0.00|
|Whole Creations gluten free garlic bread baguette||about 150g||481||4.05||64.35||2.70||6.00||21.90||3.15||0.00|
|Glass of red wine||150mL||127||0.15||3.90||0.90||0.00||0.00||0.00||15.85|