Friday Four: How much do you love a snack?


Apparently, we are now a bunch of ‘serial snackers’ and whilst I have to send out a big fat warning on the weight gain front when snacks invade too often, it is important to remember that a good snack is often a good decision! So what makes a good snack? Here are a few tips.

A good snack has to achieve on a number of levels:

  • It has to look good, taste good and make you feel good.
  • It has to keep a good balance of sugar in the bloodstream.
  • It has to keep you going until your next meal and be portable.
  • It has to stem cravings for sugary, salty, fatty snacks.
  • It has to be nutritious and provide you with energy.

Meet the energy dip head onSnacking

Hands up those who think a Caramel Latte and a Krispy Kreme doughnut tick all the above boxes? Sadly no, despite the fact that they may possibly get top marks for making you feel good for a while! Snacks are vital when energy dips are about to take you down but ensuring that a bit of protein and fat is involved in the snack is equally vital. A small, dark and rich double espresso with a glass of water alongside and an oatcake or rye crisp bread topped with some peanut or other nut butter (preferably sugar-free) will not only meet the energy dip head on, it will also keep your blood sugar levels under control to get you through the next few hours.

Pre-exercise energy-boosters & post-exercise snacks

If you exercise regularly, snacking likely plays a fairly important part in your life but something has gone a bit amiss re the advice to make your snacks starch and sugar-rich not only to meet the energy demands of your workout but also to replenish glycogen levels afterwards. Not so fast! You could live quite happily and healthily without starch or sugar as the body is rather good at creating sufficient glucose from protein foods and fats to energise and replenish your body cells unless you are training for a marthon or planning to climb Everest.

For a snacksgreat pre-exercise energy-booster, go for something like hummus or cottage cheese with a bunch of raw vegetables sticks and a good handful of nuts and seeds and for a post-exercise snack you can’t beat a homemade or carryout soup with lots of vegetables and meat, poultry, fish or shellfish and if you are training for an endurance event and you need to snack during training, keep a banana or two handy and top up your water bottle with a protein powder.

At your desk? Brain-boosting and stress-busting snacks

Why is it that when you are sat at the desk for most of your working day snack attacks occur more often than they do when you are away from work? Generally because you are either over-taxing your brain or because you are struggling to meet deadlines and you are stressed (or both!) But snacking when there is little physical exertion in your working day can be the rocky road to the ruin of your waistline. First tip is to ensure your first meal of the day, whether it be before you leave home or when you get to work has a bit of nutritional wow about it – hard to beat a bowl of porridge with a tablespoon of double cream and a drizzle of honey or scrambled eggs on toast or chopped fruit with natural yoghurt, topped with toasted, flaked almonds. Then, if you can look forward to a filling lunch you are unlikely to need a midmorning or mid afternoon snack.

snack_chocBut if you do, a brilliant brain-boosting and stress-busting snack to ensure you always have in your desk drawer is a mini bar of super dark chocolate and a tub of mixed seeds. The flavanols in dark chocolate are linked to dilation of cerebral blood vessels, allowing more blood – and therefore more oxygen – to reach key areas of the brain and the Omega 3 fats in seeds are associated with increased volume of our little grey cells!

Try saffron extract to decrease snacking

If the reason you snack too often is because you suffer from overwhelming sugar cravings, you may wish to consider trying saffron. Placebo-controlled studies found that 176.5 mg a day of a proprietary saffron extract decreased snacking events by an average of 55%. Further research into exactly why it was so successful is still in its infancy but is snacksencouraging. It is not a weight loss pill and it is not a miracle worker but many people find it helpful. As always, do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and if you are on prescription drugs, check with your GP first.