The truth about snacking


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If there is one area of nutrition in which the thinking has changed significantly in recent years it is in relation to snacking. Once considered extremely important to keep the metabolism pumping, what was once a small snack of a piece of fruit or a coffee is more likely now a small meals worth of calories as we overdo the muffins, snack bars and smoothies. The issue with this is that we tend to eat far too much, too often which inevitably leads to weight gain. So do you need to snack and if so, what are your best choices?

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The average human needs to eat every 3-5 hours – the range is wide depending on age, gender, lifestyle and activity levels. Traditionally eating three square meals each day, say breakfast by 8am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6pm, meant there was little need to snack, with the exception of an occasional piece of fruit in between meals. Fast-forward 50 or 60 years and our days are longer, and snacking is promoted, both to keep our energy and concentration up in between meals and to break up the day.

If you consider the average workday, where breakfast is consumed early, it is plausible that you might be hungry mid-morning, at 10am or 11am for something to tide you over until lunchtime. Here just a 100-200 calorie snack, of a milk based coffee, banana or some cheese and crackers is more than enough to get through another hour or two until lunch. So what should you snack on at this time of day? Often we enjoy a milk coffee or juice along with something to eat, when really we only need one or the other.

On the other hand, if you do not eat breakfast until 8 or 9 in the morning, you are better to have an early lunch than eat a snack within an hour or two of lunch. Moving into the afternoon, again the need to snack will depend on the size and timing of your lunch, and how long it will be until your evening meal. If you consume your lunch by 1pm and will not be eating dinner until 6pm or 7pm, again you will most likely need a reasonable 200-300 calorie snack around 4pm to keep your hunger controlled until dinner time. Options that include a mix of both carbohydrates for energy as well as protein to help control your appetite are good choices. A piece of fruit teamed with some Greek yoghurt, a nut based snack bar or some crackers with tuna or cheese are all filling, nutritionally balanced options.

A handy way to consider snacking is that it needs to keep you full for at least a couple of hours, and for this reason plain biscuits, lollies, chocolates and processed snack bars are not the best choice of nutritionally balanced snacks.

Top 10 filling snacks

• ½ cup Greek yoghurt + banana + 10 mixed nuts

• 4 crackers with 2 tbsp. nut spread and banana

• Nut based snack bar

• 15 mixed nuts and a piece of fruit

• 2 tbsp hommus + cut up vegetables

• Small coffee and a banana

• 4 crackers with tuna and tomato

• Mountain Bread Wrap with ham and cheese

• Banana smoothie

• Banana nut bites – see recipe below

Recipe: Banana Nut Bites 

Serves 6

Servings per serve: 2 balls

Ingredients

• 2 bananas

• 1 cup oats

• 3/4 cup Mayvers 100% nut spread

• Coconut for rolling

Method

1. Blend bananas, oats and nut spread and place in fridge until firm.

2. Roll into balls and into coconut and serve

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here

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