Written by Talia Cecchele
Are you that person that has lunch at 12pm, powers through all afternoon and walks through the door at 6pm ravenous? You pick on snacks while preparing dinner, overeat your main meal and then sit on the couch (uncomfortably full) pondering about why you couldn't just have a normal sized dinner?
Snacking is a normal part of eating. Some people snack more, others less. There are no set rules for snacking but generally snacks are eaten 2-3 hours after a main meal, and 2-3 snacks are eaten a day. Snacking can help to:
Stabilise weight and eating habits. Snacking can prevent you from becoming too hungry and overeating as a result
Stabilise blood sugar levels
Reduce mood swings (irritability, low concentration, headaches a.k.a. hanger as a result of not giving your body enough fuel)
Add more variety to your daily intake (and help to get your 5-a-day)
Re-fuel after exercise
Keep energy levels consistent throughout the day
Increase your total caloric intake if you are struggling to maintain or gain weight
In my experience, the afternoon snack (anywhere between 3pm-5pm) is the snack that has the most benefit. If you have a good breakfast you can usually make it to lunch without much trouble. But the afternoon time slot is often much longer, and if you go to the gym after work or you are stuck in traffic it is important to give your body the nutrition it needs to stop hanger kicking in just before dinner. I always encourage my clients to have a snack in the afternoon.
As a dietitian, I always get asked if I snack and what my favourite snacks are so I thought I would share my top 10 with you (in no particular order):
Hummus with wholegrain biscuits or carrot sticks. I have a few hummus recipes on my website including pumpkin hummus, beetroot hummus made with butterbeans (without oil) and a classic beetroot hummus (made with chickpeas)
Bliss balls. My favourite is peanut butter
Cheese and tomato on wholegrain crackers. Can't go past Vita Weats
Peanut butter on toast
Roasted fava beans. The Happy Snack Co make great ones.
You will notice that I didn't include portion sizes. That's because this differs for everyone, and differs day-to-day. If you are trying to manage your weight, portion size is something I recommend you review as it is very easy to get into the habit of "grazing" if you are really busy or bored rather than sitting down and having a dedicated snack. Or, your snack can end up being a "meal" (hello Boost Juice smoothies!).
This is why I will always recommend individual advice when it comes to your health. What works for you might not work for someone else.
Talia is a registered dietitian working in private practice and as an eating disorder specialist dietitian in London's leading private mental health hospital. As a freelance dietitian, Talia not only offers 1:1 consultations but can present at your workplace, create recipes or articles or host a cooking demonstration. To enquire please fill out a contact form.