If you like to graze, here’s how to do it properly…
Whether it’s a bag of nuts in your handbag, a packet of biccies in your desk drawer or a stash of sweets in the glove compartment of your car, chances are you’re one of the many British people who loves to snack.
A survey has found we are the biggest snackers in Europe. We eat four times more crisps than the French or Italians and on average, we tuck into crisps, nuts or popcorn seven times a week.
More and more of us are skipping lunch, preferring to graze on snacks instead because it’s quicker and easier.
According to a survey by The Grocer, nearly 60 per cent of people do this and around a third of young women skip lunch every day.
While snacking doesn’t always mean an unhealthy diet — as many people choose to graze on healthy foods — the danger of eating this way is that it’s easier to consume more calories than you realise.
So if you’re struggling with your weight, how can you curb your snacking habits?
Studies show that it is easier to avoid snacking when your meals provide a good volume of healthy food.
Meals that are high in fibre and contain a balance of nutrients, including protein, will make you feel fuller for longer.
Research at Harvard University showed that a diet high in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and legumes — and low in sugary drinks and processed meat — can regulate your body’s levels of leptin, the hunger hormone that tells your brain you’re full.
It’s also worth being aware of your emotional triggers around food.
A YouGov study showed that women in particular tend to snack for enjoyment, to satisfy cravings or to cheer themselves up, rather than due to hunger.
Simple ideas such as not keeping biscuits in the house or avoiding coffee shops that stock your favourite chocolate muffins will help you resist temptation.
To keep hunger pangs at bay, doctor and nutritionist Dr Michelle Braude recommends scheduling snack times in advance, before the hunger slump kicks in.
In her book The Food Effect Diet she says: ‘If you find yourself constantly tempted to have that chocolate bar and eventually feel so hungry you can’t resist it, make sure you never skip lunch or your mid-afternoon snack, and try to schedule it before you get ravenous.’
She explains that if you buy a healthy snack ahead of time, you won’t be reduced to eating a giant chocolate bar instead.
She says: ‘Our bodies typically need something to eat about every three to four hours.’
She recommends apple with peanut butter, a handful of almonds, or hummus with carrot sticks as the most satiating and energy-boosting snacks.
She also says two glasses of water and 20g of nuts should fulfil most food cravings.
The key is to be hyper-aware of exactly what you are snacking on, according to Public Health England (PHE).
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, says: ‘Unhealthy snacks can mean calories quickly add up and they often contain high levels of sugar, fat and salt.’
Dr Tedstone adds that if people are going to snack, it is important they make a considered choice, instead of grabbing the first thing that
they see on the supermarket shelves.
She recommends using the traffic-light system on food packets for a good indicator of a healthier snack and says: ‘It’s important to be aware of what’s in foods by looking for mostly greens and ambers on the front of the packet.’
Edited by Alexandra Grainger
In The Food Effect Diet, Dr Braude recommends planning healthy snacks in advance…
Raw vegetables Crunching through vegetables can help ease stress and fill you up. Munch on celery or carrot sticks if you’re feeling peckish.
Fresh fruit Blueberries, apples and oranges are all disease-fighting and health-boosting snacks to get you through the day. Fresh fruit lowers blood pressure and is lower in calories and sugar than biscuits.
Dark chocolate Not only is dark chocolate rich in antioxidants, it also makes you happier by boosting the euphoria receptors in the brain. Dark chocolate will satisfy cravings while being much better for you than more sugary varieties.
Oatcakes High in fibre, oatcakes will fill you up and they’re also good for your heart.
Nuts Nuts provide essential healthy fats and omega-3s which are crucial for the brain. Even a small amount improves circulation, prevents inflammation and increases levels of ‘good’ cholesterol in the body.
Hummus Healthy and energy boosting, hummus also satisfies cravings for creamy, salty foods.
Avocados Avocados contain more potassium than a banana and the monounsaturated fats help to lower blood pressure and keep your heart healthy.
The Food Effect Diet by Dr Michelle Braude, £13,99, is published by Little, Brown.