We can all admit snacking has become more regular over lockdown. With the fridge and chocolate stash closer than usual, snacks have become our go-to over the past year. But are we snacking right? How much is too much? And how can we stop the constant need to graze?
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It's time to stop beating yourself up about the extra bag of crisps because, believe it or not, snacking is human nature. In fact, it's encouraged. "If you see food in your environment, we are wired as humans to go for it. That is our instinct and evolutionary adaptation: we eat food!", explains Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist and founder of Harley Street nutrition clinic Rhitrition, who believes snacking doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
By eating healthy snacks, you're keeping your blood sugar level even and preventing the dreaded afternoon energy dip. Read on to find out the best snacks to keep you fuller for longer…
HELLO! spoke to Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert
Why do I crave snacks?
"It's very difficult to eat everything we're meant to eat in just two meals a day … three is the optimum and snacks can top up," says Rhiannon.
The goal is feeling satisfied, not full, she adds. "If you are [satisfied], you're less likely to reach for other items and things that you don't need."
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Snacking can be used to fill a void of something you're not getting nutritionally, too. For example, if you're craving chocolate, you may need magnesium; if it's crisps, you need chloride.
It can also be an emotional need If you're angry, sad, happy or frustrated; all these emotions can guide you towards certain snacks. And after a year of stress, anxiety, and worry, it's no wonder we’re all snacked out!
How can I reduce my snacking?
Snacking is tactical. It’s about navigating your food environment, and learning how to eat in a way that works for you. Rhiannon suggests an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach if you want to cut down on grazing.
"If we put it behind a cupboard door, if it's out of sight, we are less likely to eat it," she says. "Keep work surfaces clear as well."
Snacking is human nature - but you can learn to snack smartly!
What is the best time of day to snack?
Most of us are either an elevenses or a 3pm person. The halfway point between your meals works best. By having a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, you will not fall prey to the energy dip, and be much more productive for it - a feeling we know all too well!
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"People are back to commuting again and you're not eating till you get home, sometimes until 7 or 8pm… that is too long. So, if you're not going to eat between 12pm to 8pm, I would make a compulsory snack around 3 o'clock in order to keep your blood sugar levels thriving," instructs Rhiannon.
The same goes for on-the-go early birds. An eleven o'clock snack is ideal before a 1.30pmm lunch.
What are the best snacks to eat?
Listen to your body. "If one day all you can think about is chocolate, you have to have it, otherwise it's going to turn into something worse when you get home," explains Rhiannon, who is the host of the successful nutritional podcast Food For Thought.
Even better, tailor your cravings to make a healthy, sustainable, and nutritious snack choices. For example, if you want chocolate, try having a few squares mixed with Greek yoghurt and a banana. Something that incorporates what you actually want is rule #1 in Rhiannon’s books.
Secondly, think about protein and carbohydrates. Combined they are a nutritional powerhouse, providing slow-releasing energy (thanks to fibre) which prevents a huge blood sugar spike.
Avoid the dreaded afternoon slump by planning your snacks in advance
"A good example would be carrots and hummus," says Rhiannon. "Hummus has a lot of healthy fat in it, and protein from chickpeas combined with carrots - that’s fibre. So, [it’s] all about slow-releasing sugars."
Feeling fruity? Add some almonds into the mix to keep you satisfied for longer! A spoonful of nut butter with an apple is a perfect snack to curb the afternoon slump.
If, however, you're constantly on the move and have zero time for pre-prepared snacks, then rely on your trusty potassium pal - the banana. You could also try carrying a bag of nuts or seeds on you.
Have some free time on your hands and need some snack inspiration? Why not try out these Rhitrition-approved snack bites. Full of flavour, fun, and fibre, they're the perfect go-to graze of the day.
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Best snack recipes for staying fuller for longer
MINI MEXICAN MUFFINS
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced into small pieces
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, plus extra for the topping
- 1 tbsp sunflower or poppy seeds, plus extra for the topping
- 200ml milk of choice 1 medium egg
- 300g self-raising flour (use wholemeal self-raising flour if you can find it)
- 1 tsp hot or smoked paprika 1⁄2 tsp salt pinch of black pepper handful of chopped
- coriander (optional)
- 20g Cheddar, grated, plus extra for the topping (optional)
- butter, to finish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line a 12-hole shallow muffin tray with paper cases.
Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the diced pepper for 3 - 4 minutes. Add the seeds to the pan and toast for a final minute, stirring often.
Put the milk, remaining olive oil and egg into a bowl and beat together with a fork or small whisk. In a second bowl combine the flour, paprika, salt and pepper and coriander and cheese, if using.
Tip the cooked peppers into the egg mix, stirring to distribute them. Gently fold in the flour mixture, taking care not to overwork the mixture. The batter should be fairly stiff.
Using two spoons as scoops, divide the muffin batter evenly between the paper cases. Sprinkle with a few extra seeds, then bake in the oven for 15–18 minutes until browned on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
If you like, add an optional teaspoon of butter to the top of each warm muffin and sprinkle with a little extra cheese. Transfer to a wire rack and allow them to cool slightly before eating – they are delicious warm but can be eaten cold.
GRANOLA SQUARES RECIPE
- 4 tbsp nut butter
- 4 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 150g rolled oats
- 3 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 40g raisins
- 40g chopped almonds
- 20g sunflower seeds
- 25g sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line a 20cm square baking tray with baking paper.
Put the nut butter, honey and coconut oil into a small pan over a low heat and warm until it has melted. Stir well.
Meanwhile, put all the rest of the ingredients into a bowl and stir so the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and stir until well combined and all of the mixture is coated.
Press into the baking tray and, using a sharp knife, lightly score the top into a grid of 12–16 squares or rectangles; this will make it easier to cut them when baked.
Bake in the oven for 10–15 minutes until browned and firm to the touch. Leave to cool fully before slicing into squares along the lines you pre-scored.
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Rhiannon Lambert is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder of Rhitrition, London's Leading Private Nutrition Clinic. Follow her on Instagram @rhitrition or visit rhitrition.co.uk for more information.
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