Healthy eating is something the majority of people strive for and feel good about doing so, however with the surreal changes that Covid-19 has enforced upon us; anxiety and stress levels may be higher than normal.
Increased stress and anxiety can see us reaching for comfort or convenience foods that reduce the effort in preparation with the added bonus of them making us feel good short term due to their increased levels of dopamine and serotonin (happy hormones). The lack of routine during recent lockdown, working from home, and less structure to our lives overall can leave you feeling tired and demotivated. Both of which will inspire quick choices in snacks and minimal efforts.
Here is my take on healthy snacking, although please note I am no nutritionist and this is just my personal insight!
Breaking down the content:
Each meal should include a well balanced amount of fat, protein and carbohydrate, and this is a good rule to follow for your snacks too as it will provide valuable nutrients and keep you going for the day. Ideally added sugar should be avoided in snacks where possible.
Sugar: Sugar is what makes our snacks taste good, and triggers that “moreish” feeling, however it has no nutritional value. Excess sugar has been linked to health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as deteriorating our dental health, and triggering that post-sugar slump we experience shortly after consuming sugary snacks. Additionally, excess sugar can be converted into fat by your liver.
Fat: Fat is an essential component of our diet, providing us with energy and brain power. Whilst important we should note that fats provide twice as much calories as protein or carbohydrates for the same portion size. We should aim to reduce saturated fats such as butter and increase mono and polyunsaturated fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and oily fish.
Protein: Protein is well known for its role in aiding muscle size and strength, as well as for bone health, but it can also reduce blood pressure too. On average we need 0.75g of protein per kg of your bodyweight per day, and more if you are more physically active. Sources of protein include meat, fish, pulses, nuts, and tofu.
Carbohydrate: Carbs are our main source of energy and we should aim to include more starchy type carbs such as wholegrain rice, pasta and bread, potatoes, lentils and beans; and try to avoid those that are more processed or high in sugar. The latter will cause a spike in blood sugars and the energy boost will be short lived.
Tips to minimise unhealthy snacking:
– Try to prepare in advance what you will have that day. I take my lunch to work and therefore only eat what I brought with me. If you’re WFH think of this in the same way and lay out your snacks for the day.
– Go a step further and avoid purchasing too many unhealthy snacks when you do your food shop. If it isn’t in the house then you are much less likely to consume it! A little in moderation is never a bad thing but try to avoid buying multiple items.
– Structure your day like a work day too, even if you are not working. For example, plan breakfast, lunch and dinner times and schedule tea breaks at around 10.30am and 2.30pm (or whenever works for you) and have a snack in mind for each. Try to avoid snacking out with those designated times to minimise comfort or habitual eating.
– Remain hydrated throughout the day. Feeling thirsty could make you think you are hungry and leave you feeling fatigued, tired, and therefore more likely to reach for the unhealthy snacks.
Healthy snack ideas:
I read somewhere what snacks should be made up of “snack” and “substance”, so the nice tasting part that attracts you and the substance that fulfils you! Getting this combination is supposed to satisfy you with healthy calories and avoid further snacking. Ideas for this include:
– Hummus & carrot/pepper/cucumber
– Cheese & apple slices
– Yoghurt & fruit
– Oat cakes & nut butter
– Toast & cream cheese (you could also add nut butter)
– Pancakes- whilst these don’t fit in the “snack & substance” category I just love the sweetness of a pancake for a snack!
– Homemade healthy muffins (see below for recipes!)
My all time favourite go-to-healthy-snack is a fruit and yoghurt smoothie! I have always made these ever since I worked in a gym from when I was 18. I mix 1 banana, a handful of blueberries and strawberries, a few spoons of natural yoghurt, some whole milk, and a teaspoon of chai seeds.
Oat, blueberry & banana muffins
This recipe is modified from @mummynutrition and was originally used for my toddler’s snacks, but they work just as well for adults too! Mix everything in a bowl thoroughly and then spoon in to muffin cases. Cook in a pre-heated over at 180 degree C for approx. 25 minutes or until golden brown.
2 scoops of fine oats
150ml whole milk
A handful of mashed blueberries
2 ripe bananas (mashed)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Courgette & cheese muffins
These muffins are from @whatmummymakes and once again for my toddler, but are a great savoury snack on the go! I had never eaten courgette until these, but they taste great! I batch cook, keep some in the fridge and keep the rest in the freezer until required and de-frost in the microwave briefly.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, divide in to muffin cases and bake in a pre-heated oven to 180 degrees C for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
2 grated courgettes
80g grated cheese
100g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons of whole milk
Grinding of black pepper