Done right, healthy snacks can keep hunger at bay, keep energy levels on an even keel and provide a great source of health-boosting nutrients. Done wrong, snacking can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and hungrier than before. The key is taking a smart approach to snacking. Here are 5 common snacking pitfalls.
“SUGAR FREE” IS NOT AS HEALTHY AS IT SEEMS
A close look at some popular #cleaneat hashtags on social media and food labels shows sugar still creeps into the food we eat. Most “sugar-free” diets advocate eliminating table sugar (sucrose), a type of refined sugar commonly found in cakes, biscuits and soft drinks, but don’t apply the same restraint to natural sweeteners. The problem is, many of us are being fooled into thinking we are “quitting sugar” when in fact we are eating products laced with other sweet alternatives. For example, popular “raw” treats may seem healthy by using whole food ingredients, however some may pack a calorie punch akin to a chocolate bar. And while these ‘healthy treats’ claim to be sugar free, many are actually made with brown rice malt syrup, which technically is only free of fructose and is a refined sugar which provides more calories, contributes to tooth decay and causes a much higher spike in blood-glucose levels.
WATCH WHAT YOU SLURP
Smoothie-lovers beware. Sure, a super green smoothie is packed with kale and spinach leaves, but when topped off with a couple of pieces of fruit, coconut milk, yoghurt, acai, milk, nut butters, honey and medjool dates, the end result will not exactly leave you lean. Some smoothie recipes can contain more calories than a meal (>2000 kilojoules or 465 calories) and the same amount of sugar as a can of soft drink (11 to 12 teaspoons). In other words, it does not matter if a source of sugar is refined, natural, contains fructose, or is 100 per cent glucose — any sugar (or calories from fat or protein) consumed in excess is fattening.
MISTAKING THIRST FOR HUNGER
If you recently ate something, you really shouldn’t be feeling hungry. When a hankering for a nibble is about to strike, question how long ago you ate. Was it 3 hours ago or 30-minutes ago? If the latter, chances are you’re most likely thirsty. It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger, which can lead to eating many more calories than needed. Drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes to re-evaluate how you feel. If you’re still hungry, then grab a healthy snack.
Grazing (eating constantly throughout the day) is an eating habit we are not often mindful of. If this habit is not kept under control, the calories do quickly add up. In order to gain more control over what and how much you eat, aim to schedule snacks and meals throughout the day.
Many foods that come as a single portion actually contain multiple servings. Portions and servings are two different things. A ‘portion’ is the amount of a food you choose to eat at any one time (which may be more or less than a serving). A ‘serving’ describes a recommended amount of a certain food or drink (i.e. one slice of bread or one cup of milk). Always read the serving suggestions on the packet. Once you know how much you should eat, get in the habit of placing even small snacks on a plate before you eat them so you know how much you’re truly getting.