“Shall I snack?” I get that question a lot in clinic and it’s a really tricky one to answer as it depends on what you snack on.
Recently, I’ve been asked quite a lot for advice on snacks while in isolation. I didn’t think much of it until I saw my kids literarily emptying the cupboards in two days…surely they do not eat this much at school?
But before we get onto what to snack on, a quick note on ultra-processed foods like biscuits, crisps, chocolate bars and even some energy bars. I’m not completely opposed to having a naughty treat once in a while. We had the most delicious home-made, full-sugar, all-butter brownies last night and enjoyed every crumb!
Regularly eating processed food can be damaging to our health, even for kids, as they are high in sugar, unhealthy fats and additives that can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hormonal disruption, etc. On top of that, now that most of us are house bound, very processed foods, are quite high in empty calories and low in essential nutrients, and a result can increase the risk of accumulating unwanted pounds.
Here is my guide to snacking while working from home. Keep reading there are plenty of recipes included too:
Give your day structure including set times for meals. If you miss lunch, I guarantee you those chocolate biscuits will not have a chance to make it through the day!!
If you didn’t use to snack before staying at home, please don’t start now that you are getting less exercise you are likely to need them LESS not MORE.
If you do snack, limit your snacks to one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Grazing is all well and good for cows but it can cause havoc on our digestive system and pile the pounds on too. You shouldn’t need a snack in the eve, especially if it’s wine and chocolate in front of the telly!
Shopping can be tricky right now but avoid buying any variation of the following
Cookies – make your own!! Must healthier and not
Biscuits – see above
Ready-to-eat deserts. OK, maybe some good quality ice-cream once a week.
Energy bars – full of sugar and potentially unhealthy fats
Sugary yogurts – buy plain organic yogurt and flavour with maple syrup, raw honey, nuts, berries, etc
Bags of crisps and other snacks – can make your own kale chips instead!
Family size chocolate bags/bars – just don’t but them, please, if they are not in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. And try home-made choc treats instead!
Make a list and stick to it and never go to the supermarket when hungry, your will power will be much lower!
Stock up ondried fruit, nuts, seeds, oatcakes, wholegrain crackers, brown rice cakes, hummus, carrots, fruit, plain yogurt, popping corn, seaweed or kale chips.
Popcorn is a great option but either buy “posh” popcorn that has less salt/sugar and oil or make your own. It cannot be easier and you can add which ever flavour you like: we tried chilli powder and lime and it rocked! Try to avoid microwave popcorn as it has tonnes of additives, it comes it gets heated to very high temperatures in a BPA/foil lined bag.
Remember that a snack is meant to be a nibble to tie you over until lunch or dinner. It is not a mini-meal and it should be under 100Kcal unless you are a growing child or training for a marathon. To give you an idea, a large apple, small handful of nuts or large handful of edamame are about 100Kcal.
For those of us with kids, it’s even more challenging but it is worth avoiding super-sugary treats as sugar overload and kids cooped-up in the house really do not go well together. Also, sugar down-regulates the immune system at a time when we need it to work at its very best. And eating sugar regularly creates a habit – it’s so addictive! My advice? Make your own treats: keeps the kids and grown-ups occupied for a while, teaches them how to cook and since the treats are not just sitting in the cupboard you (and everyone else in the house!) are bound to eat an awful lot less. Here are some recipes easy to make, a little bit naughty but healthy too!
When you think you are hungry, have a cup of green or herbal tea. Or just a glass of water as our body can confuse hunger with thirst and see how you feel after 10min.
Ensure you are not just eating because your new office is the kitchen table and you can grab a snack without getting up from your chair – if you need a 5 min break do and some stretches or make a cup of tea!
If you’ve overdone it on the snack front during the day, cut the carbs down in the evening – less pasta, more salad!
Plan ahead – if you know what’s for lunch or dinner and you are looking forward to it, you may not reach for a snack quite as quickly.
Even if you have a “sweet tooth” stay away from the sweet stuff as it will make you crave more sugar shortly afterwards and balance, balance, balance – add protein (yogurt), good fats (flax seeds), nutrients (berries) and use natural sweeteners like chia jam or honey
A great option is to choose savoury snacks: salty popcorn, veggie hummus (1-2 tablespoons), avocado on crispbread, goats cheese on oat cakes, a boiled egg, edamame, kale chips, radishes, dukkah and bread, miso soup with wakame and tofu.
Do not set out food next to your computer – you’ll eat too much and not feel satisfied as you have not properly enjoyed the food.
Portion your snacks – if you leave a large bag of nuts by your work area you’ll carry on eating till you finish it. So, just put a handful in a bowl and DO NOT refill it.
And keep moving! Now it is more important than ever – get up for glass of water take some stuff to the bin, go and check on the kids, take the laundry upstairs. Movement is as important as exercise and the lack of walking outside makes a huge difference.
Sign-up to an online exercise class – whatever you like but schedule it into your day so you stay as active as possible. My fave right now is Gaia for yoga and pilates.
Energy balls are great but … they are quite high in calories, so make them and freeze half the batch so you cannot eat them all in one go! Here are a few tasty recipes: