In Italy, the snack or Il spuntino is reserved solely for children. Adults simply do not snack here, unless one is enjoying an aperitif and a few morsels of potato chips fall into ones mouth. In stark opposition, the Australian snack movement is alive and kicking and research revealed this week by Roy Morgan Research shows that the potato chip is still the most popular snack in the land down under. In the year up to March 2013, over a third of Australians 14+ years had purchased the product in an average four week period. Sweet biscuits slid into second place and nuts rounded out the Top Three! From a nutritionists perspective this news is somewhat gloomy, although not surprising. However, this data is somewhat misleading as basic foods such as fruit, dairy products and bread are not considered to be in the snack food category for these types of surveys but are very often used as everyday snacks.
For some of us, snacking is an essential part of keeping energy levels high, while for others, it doesn’t even rate a mention. Snacking can be great for keeping hunger pangs at bay, controlling weight, satisfying small appetites and providing important nutrients. However, in our current climate of upsizing, snacks can contribute significantly more kilojoules (calories) to our diets than are required. Larger portions have more kilojoules and more kilojoules mean weight gain.
Your lifestyle and routine will probably dictate whether you are a three-meal-per-day person or a “grazer.” The term grazing is so called because cows like to do the same thing. You may not like to think of yourself out in the field chomping down on grass but grazing usually means snacking or having five to six smaller meals spread out over the day. It doesn’t matter if you have three large meals or three smaller meals and three snacks each day. Weight maintenance is achieved when your food intake matches your expenditure (exercise), regardless of when you consume them.
Snacking can be a great way of keeping your blood sugar and energy levels stable but keep a check on what and how much you are actually eating over the day. It can be easy to exceed your daily energy requirements through regular snacking, so make sure that you don’t fill up on biscuits, cakes, lollies, chocolate and chips or whatever is handy from the vending machine. These types of foods are high in sugar, fat and salt but low in fibre and are certainly not good for your health.
To be a healthy snacker, planning is important. Shopping regularly and having healthy snacks on hand makes it less likely that you will reach for fatty and sugary foods containing massive amounts of kilojoules. It will also save you money as items purchased from vending machines and convenience stores are often priced at a premium. Regardless of whether you are at work, school, university or at home, planning and packing your food intake the night before is a strategy employed by many healthy snackers. The routine of packing a lunch bag for school works just as well when heading off to work although your lunchbox may not be quite as colourful as it used to be!
A problem time for many people is the third quarter of the day, kicking off after lunch and finishing around 3 p.m. This is often when you feel least energetic – and you try to ward off the desire to lie down on the desk or carpet. A snack is often required to boost blood sugar levels but can be a nutrition trap. It is tempting to grab something quick and easy, but pre-packaged convenience snacks will not give you the long-lasting energy you need to get through the day.
When choosing snacks, the following guide may be useful. Look at their size and energy value to ensure snacks don’t totally eclipse your daily food intake:
For Weight Loss Choose 420 kJ/100 calories at each snack
For Weight Maintenance Choose 840 kJ/200 calories at each snack
For Weight Gain Choose 1260 kJ/300 calories or more at each snack
Some quick and easy snacks include:
- 1 slice of fruit or raisin toast with thinly spread jam
- Wholegrain toast or crumpet with a light spread of peanut butter or vegemite
- Small fruit smoothie
- Handful of wholegrain crackers with cheese
- 1 punnet of strawberries
- 1 piece of fruit such as an apple, banana or pear
- Low fat, regular-sized coffee (latte, cappuccino, flat white)
- 200 g low fat yoghurt
- 20 almonds, cashews or pistachios
- 1 boiled egg
- 100 g tin tuna in brine or spring water
- 1 small tin of fruit in natural juice