You've just eaten and now your stomach is growling again. It's still too early for lunch? Or you're on the road and there's nothing to eat far nearby? What should you do? For most people, the answer is probably: a snack! So what's the best thing to grab when we're feeling a little hungry?
Contents of this article:
- Healthy Snacking – How does it work?
- Snacking as a mindfulness exercise
- Healthy snacks
- Self-made sweet snacks
- Something savoury please!
Healthy Snacking – How does it work?
The easiest option would be to grab a chocolate bar or sandwich, but we all know these don't really constitute a healthy snack. What we choose to eat as a snack, can heavily influence our behaviour when we have a proper meal. If we select the right snack, it can help satisfy our appetite and prevent us from overeating later. However, if we select the wrong snack, which really fills us up, then we risk not eating properly or skipping the meal all together. This is far from ideal, because our body will go without important nutrients and vitamins which it needs.
If our snacks consist of processed foods with refined sugar and unsaturated fats, we increase the likelihood to develop a habit to always select these foods as our go-to snacks. The more of these foods we consume, the less likely that nutritious, wholesome foods will land on the table. In the long term this can be damaging for our body. If we continuously opt for foods that have a poor nutritional profile and are high in calories, it can lead to weight gain and an insufficient nutrient intake. The right snack choice, something like fruit or vegetables which also keep our blood sugar levels stable, are the better option.
People that get very hungry but can’t eat very much, should also become familiar with what healthy snacks should look like.
Snacking As a Mindfulness Exercise
In order to snack well and healthfully, it is important to keep certain things in mind. We’ve come up with some helpful answers to frequently asked snack-related questions.
"Why do I feel the urge to snack in between meals?" The motivation here can usually be traced back to an emotional instinct rather than a purely physical one. This kind of craving is not real hunger, but a feeling we’re all familiar with. Sitting at our desk, looking at a lengthy to do list and all we want to do is snack on some chocolate. But lets be honest, the feelings of sluggishness (and maybe even guilt) we feel afterwards should help us quit the bad snacking.
"Is there a right time for a snack? Or, is there a time where I shouldn’t be snacking?’’ Generally speaking research indicates that a period of about 4 or more hours should separate meal times. This gives your digestive system ample time to process and absorb the food you’ve consumed. It is not recommended to go without food for much longer than 4-5 hours, as our blood sugar levels will start to decrease, and with that our energy levels, motivation and good mood. We are liable to compensate this feeling by grabbing an unhealthy, caloric snack. Research also indicates that snacking between breakfast and lunch is not advised. Instead, it is best to have a filling breakfast that sustains you for a few hours. A plate with protein, whole grains, healthy fats and enough fruit and veg is ideal.
If we go out to a restaurant for a meal, then a snack can also be valuable. Many dishes at restaurants are high in calories and also come in larger portions than what we would cook at home. Having a little nutritious snack before going to the restaurant, might help you from overeating excessively.
Anyone who exercises for more than an hour, should re-up their nutrient levels in the form of a healthy snack, to ensure your body isn’t depleted of nutrients. A banana or yoghurt could be a good option.
How much ‘snack’ is ok? As already mentioned, your snack shouldn’t conflict with your next proper meal, but also shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying it. Your healthy snack should have between 150-200 calories, not more.
Last but not least: ''what should I be snacking?''
This little analysis teaches us that being mindful with our food is essential to ensure nutritional options and optimal physical performance. Healthy snacks require a bit of planning and we should take this into account when we go grocery shopping and make lists. In case you’re overwhelmed with cravings and don’t know what snacks are both healthy and yummy, don’t worry we’ll help you make the right decision!
If you like sweet things, your first stop would probably be the supermarket shelf. However, processed sweet products often contain a lot of short-chain carbohydrates (including refined sugar). Even foods disguised as "low carb snacks" usually turn out to be unhealthy traps. If you still need to eat quickly, then high-quality protein bars are a good exception. However, pay attention to the ingredient list. The shorter the list, the better. And try to only include items with natural ingredients. Healthier alternatives would be fruit and vegetables such as pineapple, grapes, tangerines, melon or even a small salad. Berries are also little wonders that are not only filling, but also bring a lot of health benefits. Speaking of which, have you ever thought of replacing milk chocolate with dark chocolate? Dark chocolate has a higher nutritional profile with high levels of antioxidants that help us fight off free radicals and thus prevent premature ageing. Fruits and dark chocolate can be perfectly combined with nuts. Nuts are a great snack option: full of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and magnesium. They are therefore very popular among athletes. Thanks to complex, or long-chain, carbohydrates, we feel energised for longer. Add Greek yoghurt for extra protein and you have a recipe for a quick and healthy snack for any time of day. If that's not enough for you, there's a range of healthy sweets you can select. Instead of opting for calorie bombs when you're experiencing cravings, try the following recipes, which are perfect for the office, on-the-go and can help with weight loss:
Peanut butter on toast, topped with bananas or apples
Yoghurt with honey and raisins
Self-Made Sweet Snacks
- Oats (~50 g)
- Milk of your choice (125 ml)
- Apple (1/2) and Raisins (1 TB)
- Lemon juice (1 TB)
- Banana (1/2)
- Dandelion honey (1 TB)
- Nuts (1 TB)
As a base, you can put your milk-soaked oats in the fridge overnight. Chop your nuts and raisins to add them to your oats. Next, grate an apple and mix it with the honey and lemon juice and add to the mixture. Finally, you can top the entire creation with some bananas and done!
Chia seeds are excellent sources of fibre, plant-based omega 3 fatty acids and protein. These stimulate a healthy digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels. This magical pudding can be put together with just a few ingredients, so its a great fast and nutritious option.
- Chia-Seeds (50 g)
- Milk of your choice (400 ml)
- Strawberries (200 g)
Mix the chia seeds with the milk so that they are submerged. Puree the strawberries and add it to the mixture. Next, leave everything overnight in the fridge. In the morning, you’ll have a delicious and sweet snack!
Vegan Frozen Yoghurt
Frozen yoghurt is considered the low calorie little sister of regular ice cream. With approximately 150 calories/portion, its a decent snack option. Usually you would need an ice cream maker, but this recipe gives you easy steps that don’t require a machine at all.
- Soy-based yoghurt (1 pack)
- Frozen fruit
- Maple syrup or other vegan sauces of your choice
Mix the yoghurt with the maple syrup or sauce of your choice. Chop the frozen fruit or add to a blender. Now all you need to do is mix everything together and enjoy!
If you’re craving something sweet and energy rich, bliss or energy balls are a great option. They consist primarily of nuts which contain important nutrients and can effectively replenish your energy levels without causing fatigue.
- Dates (~200 g)
- Ground almonds (~100 g)
- Chopped hazelnuts (~60 g)
- Optional: chia seeds, coconut flakes
- Oats (~100 g) or cacao powder
- Water (~100 ml)
Combine the dates and almonds in a blender and stir well. Mix the hazelnuts, oats, cacao powder and water. Then add both mixtures together and knead into a dough. Then separate into small, bite size balls. No bake necessary!
Something Savoury Please!
Salty over sweet? No problem! We’ve prepared some great recipes for those that would rather have a salty than sweet snack.
Quick and easy snacks:
Vegan cottage cheese with vegetables
Hummus with vegetables
- Avocado on a cracker
If you do have a bit of time to spare, then you can also get cooking to create these yummy snacks:
Kale: the renowned green superfood. High in Vitamin C, calcium, iron and antioxidants. Kale can be transformed into crunchy, delightful chips that are perfect for on the go.
- Kale (~60 g)
- Olive oil (~1 TB)
- Tahini (~ ½ TB)
Before you start, you should remove the midrib and only use the leaves. Wash thoroughly and dry them. Then heat your oven to 110°C. Combine olive oil, tahini and salt and marinate the kale leaves in the sauce. Leave for 30-35 minutes. Tip: occasionally open the oven door to increase crispiness. Remove from oven and serve with chilli flakes, sesame or salt if desired.
You know chickpeas from hummus and falafel, but they’re also stellar by themselves! Try this recipe for a vegan and gluten free healthy snack.
- Chickpeas (cooked)
- Garlic powder
- Paprika powder
- Olive oil
Wash the chickpeas and dry them. Add olive oil and combine well. Distribute on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25 minutes at 180°C. Then remove and sprinkle the garlic, paprika powder and salz. Add to the oven again for 10 minutes or until brown and crispy.
Stuffed Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are the more nutritious version of regular potatoes. They are rich in antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They help strengthen our immune system, can protect from cardiovascular issues, helps regulate stress and control blood sugar levels. In addition, they contain complex carbohydrates that keep you feeling full for longer. The spinach gives you a good dose of Vitamin A and C, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Add some vegan feta for more protein.
- Sweet potato
- Vegan feta
- Onion and garlic
- Salt and pepper
Cut the sweet potato in half (for a faster cooking time), poke some holes into the flesh and spread some olive oil. Put them in the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Next, you can chop and roast the garlic and the feta. Once the potatoes start to caramelise, remove them from the oven. Remove the flesh with a fork and combine it with the spinach and feta. Then add it back to the potato skin. Sprinkle some feta on top and bake for another 5 minutes. Once crispy, get ready for a mouth watering snack!
In conclusion, snacks can be great as long as they are nutritious. The right snack can keep you feeling energised and satisfied throughout the day, while providing you with important nutrients. Snacking can help for more mindful eating and therefore help regulate weight. There are countless healthy snack options, both sweet and salty. We hope our recipes add some creativity and flavour to your kitchen!
Other exciting articles:
- Cravings – Boredom, Stress or Warning Signals?
- Brain Food – Natural Power for Your Brain
- Superfoods – How 'Super' and How Healthy are They Really?
- Healthy Breakfast Ideas
- Healthy Dinner – What's Best for You and Your Body