When it comes to snacking, it pays to remember we’re all human beings. We can’t just cruise through the day like robots, never dreaming of a handful of nuts or a baked sweet potato to quell a craving or hunger pang.
There’s nothing wrong with needing a little extra fuel to get you through the time between meals, but there’s a vast difference between a healthy snack on a busy afternoon and a packet of potato chips eaten by the fistful during a 2 a.m. Netflix binge.
People are often confused about how to snack well: What snack is right for you? When should you eat it? How much is too much? To help you get your head around snacking, we got the inside word from advanced sports dietician, Lisa Middleton. Here are her seven key tips to staying on track with your snacks:
1. You don’t have to snack
That’s right: snacks aren’t always essential, depending on what your goals are. “If you’re trying to lose weight, you may only need one small snack in the day and rely on meals for nutrition,” Lisa says. “But if you are on the Centr Build Muscle program, then snacks are an essential part of your day to meet requirements for muscle growth.”
2. Max out your protein snacks
If snacking leaves you feeling restless or thinking about a second helping, the snacks you’re choosing might not be the best foods for curbing hunger.
“Think about popular snacks like crackers, muesli bars and biscuits: they’re all carb, with very little protein,” Lisa explains. “Protein in snacks helps with satiety and also helps support muscle recovery from training.”
The Centr snack menu has a range of simple, high-protein recipes that give you more than a simple carb hit, like our Tuna and Bean Power Bowl.
3. Timing is everything
If you are following Centr then you are likely already active. This means that snacks can form an important part of your daily food intake and should be spaced strategically.
“Timing of snacks around exercise can make all the difference to training results, ensuring energy pre-workout and the right nutrients for recovery,” Lisa says.
4. Plan your snacks like you plan your meals
We know “snack planning” might seem a bit over-the-top for such an informal ‘meal.’ But if you snack without a plan, your chance of cruising over to the vending machine increases.
“Many poor snack choices arise due to lack of planning and then just grabbing whatever is in front of you,” Lisa says. “Instead, plan to have nutritious snack options readily available.”
It can help to have a big batch made ahead of time, such as Centr’s Lemon, Poppyseed and Coconut Cakes. You get 12 snacks out of that one recipe, and you can even freeze them for later. Snacking sorted.
5. Think low GI
Similarly, consider the glycemic index of the snacks you’re choosing. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure that ranks foods according to their effect on your blood sugar levels. “A low GI snack will give you more sustained energy, satiety and nutrition,” Lisa explains. Examples include a small cup of Greek yogurt with seeds and berries or apple slices with organic almond butter.
6. Convenient snacks don't have to come from the convenience store
If you have to take snacks on the go, it’s easy to be tempted by the convenience of prepackaged portions. But as Lisa advises, those aren’t always the best option. “Many portable snacks come in a packet and may be high in sugar, salt and high GI,” she says. “Think about the type of portable snacks that you can keep in your bag, like small pots of nuts or seeds, roasted chickpeas, or wholegrain crackers with nut spread.”
For the Centr take on convenient snacks, give our Bird Seed Bars a try.
7. Remember: Snacks, not small meals
Snacks can provide important nutrition, but they don’t need to be an entire extra meal. The same goes for ‘occasional’ snacks, too: you don’t have to deny yourself, just be mindful about the treats you decide to include. Try savoring a few squares of dark chocolate, rather than finishing a whole block of caramel milk chocolates.
“It’s great to enjoy a variety of foods, and things like chocolate can be enjoyed in small portions, regardless of your health and fitness goals,” Lisa says.
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