Snacking in lockdown has gone through the roof (me included) with uncertainty and emotions running high over the last year. It’s no surprise that my number one question from clients has been, what healthy snacks can I have that isn’t going to impact my weight? The blog explains what unhealthy snacks look like, what they actually look like in calories and how you can find the best snack for your health and fitness goals.
How I learnt about healthy snacks and its impact on my health and fitness goals
Having been the king of unhealthy snacking in my twenties, I could polish off a packet of biscuits without even worrying. What changed? I educated myself in nutrition and started to understand the impact that these snacks had. Just as an example, I use to eat a whole dairy milk family bar within minutes but I never understood anything about the calories or impact that had on my general weight loss goals. In one family bar of dairy milk chocolate, you have 1,072 calories (200grams). That is over half the daily intake of calories for females and just under half for males. Then you take into account the fat and sugar content of chocolate and you are fighting an uphill struggle. If you want to see what state those bad snacking habits got me into, you can see my last blog here.
Bad snacks i.e. cakes, biscuits and chocolate, are calorie-dense and nutrient-poor………Addicted2Life – https://personaltrainingwimbledon.com/blog/
So yes, the type of snacking you do, does really impact on your health and fitness goals. For naughty snacking i.e. cakes, biscuits and chocolate especially. This is because they increase calories but the bigger problem, is they contribute a high level of fat to your diet. So if you think you eat healthy at mealtime, but you snack a few times a day on chocolate and biscuits, then do you understand the real impact that they are having on your over health and fitness goals? The fact that bad snacks are calorie-dense and nutrient-poor means they don’t really have any benefit other than providing calories.
What does bad snacking look like?
Bad snacking is filling yourself with nutrient poor, calorie dense snacks which have little benefit for living a healthy lifestyle and usually are a triggered reaction from boredom Here are a few examples of what bad snacking looks like:
- 10 Chocolate Bourbons – Very easy to get carried away with these! 660 calories
- McCoys Salt and Vinegar Crisps – 158 calories
- Easter Egg (Flake) – 560 calories (this is for the full egg minus the two flakes – but let’s be honest, you have probably eaten the lot in one go before)
- Pork Pie – 368 calories
- Greggs Sausage Roll – 317 calories
- 10 chocolate hob knobs – 991 calories (another one I was guilty of!)
- Dried Fruit – do not be fooled. These are very high in sugar (which turns to fat when we don’t burn it off). But, in moderation, they can provide you with a rich source of fibre, nutrients and polyphenols. See more here http://bit.ly/3lieiLO.
- Cherry Bakewell – 190 calories.
This is the biggest killer in males and the second biggest killer for females in the UK.UK GOV 2001 – 2018 http://bit.ly/3la43ZE
These are just a few of the foods that I would have regularly as a snack. I would also let myself go at weekends and eat whatever I wanted (cheat weekends) but they cause even more damage because calorie targets go out of the window and the foods tend to be high fat and high in sugars when you cheat. Another thing to watch out for in snacks is trans fats. They have the ability to increase your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol all at the same time! This is bad because this increases your chances of developing heart disease. This is the biggest killer in males and the second biggest killer for females in the UK (Source: UK Gov 2001 – 2018. http://bit.ly/3la43ZE). Watch out for biscuits, cakes, pies, fried food and frozen pizza to name a few examples (http://mayocl.in/3qE5Ze3). They will also impact on your gut health which is a HUGE contributor to your overall wellbeing.
Is all snacking bad? NO. Foods that keep you fuller for longer, provide good sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre (important for a healthy gut) are foods that you should be snacking on.
Just as an example of how bad snacking can add up the calories. If you had the following during a week:
- 3 chocolate hobknobs a day (21 over a week) 1,911 calories
- 1 packet of McCoys Salt and Vinegar crisps (7 packets over a week) 1,106 calories
- 1 Cherry Bakewell a day (7 a week) 1,260 calories
- 1 tub of Ben and Jerrys Fudge Brownie 🙂 980 calories
On top of the extra 5,257 calories, you would consume through the above snacking, it would be largely made up of fat and sugar, which is bad. So in terms of the normal male calorie intake of 2,500 a day and female 2,000 a day, the calorie intake for the week contributes to 30% for men and 37% for women. The list might be slightly inflated and might not be realistic to you, but this is to give you a sense of how bad snacking can potentially be for your nutrition.
Get out of the habit of snacking
Before suggesting alternative snacks, the goal really should be to avoid snacking. Realistically we don’t need to snack unless we are playing sport and need the calories and electrolytes to help us perform consistently.
So how do you stop snacking completely? Here are a few suggestions:
- Out of sight, out of mind – if you don’t have it in your cupboard, you are less likely to go out and get it. Stock your house with healthy alternatives e.g. fruit and take away all of the bad snacks. This will really help you with your health and fitness goals.
- Drink water – when we think we are hungry, its normally because we are dehydrated and we have become so confused by this signal, we have swapped it for thinking we need food. You can read more about hydration and snacking here.
- Get moving – get yourself out of the habit of snacking by making a decision to move instead. Tony Robbins talks about the power of movement in terms of physiology and is one of the three triads in leading a successful life (Tonyrobbins.com). You can use this same technique to change negative snacking habits, into positive habits of movement. If you did 5 minutes of yoga, instead of snacking, you would burn calories, increase blood flow and feel better. The cumulative impact of this very simple technique can be a game-changer for your weight loss goals.
- Don’t eat on emotions – when eating as a reaction to emotions e.g. a stressful breakup, you will press the ‘f*ck it button’ and the calorie tally could be astronomical. Becoming self-aware of your own emotional triggers in relation to snacking will give you more power to combat emotional eating. Inutitve eating is highly associated with a stronger mind/body connection and understanding what works and doesnt work for you and your fitness goals is vital.
- Have clear health and fitness goals – without having clear health and fitness goals e.g. to lose 10kg in three months, you are unlikely to have any reasons to not snack. It’s very important to always have goals and aspirations with fitness because when you don’t, it’s easier to fall in bad habits. If you need help with your health and fitness goals, get in contact with us here.
- Drink a sweet herbal tea – for me personally, I had to change my after dinner habits from always going to the sweet draw to having a sweet herbal tea instead. The herbal tea needed to be milk-free for me personally as I would have smashed the biscuits otherwise. If you want a great sweet tea for after diner, try this one from Puka https://amzn.to/3bKK01b.
- If tea or coffee opens up a tin of biscuits, stop drinking tea or coffee. My Achilles heel was biscuits and a cup of tea. I only ever had biscuits because of the tea. So once I stopped tea and coffee for a while, I gave up biscuits but if you don’t have them in the house, then it won’t be an issue.
- Don’t let others enable your snacking problems. Get buy-in from loved ones, family and friends and go on a bad snack ban. No snacks are allowed in the house and any snacking done by other people is then limited to what they do outside.
- Make sure your main meals keep you fuller for longer. Add more vegetables and protein into your diet and you will feel fuller for longer. if you need a guide, the plate should be two portions vegetables, one portion protein and one portion carbohydrates. Vegans/vegetarians report being fuller for longer even with a plant based diet.
These are just a few of the personal changes I made to my own snacking issues when I was eating around 3500 calories a day at the height of my obesity. You can’t beat the simple solution of not having any snacks insight. Delete the takeaway apps or use an app blocker to stop you from getting a cheat delivery of Easter Eggs at 9 pm at night!
Healthy snacks – Whats good?
Protein Bars – don’t confuse them with being a healthy snack.
I personally use protein bars that have low sugar content (less than 5g of sugar per 100g – read more here about what low sugar content means, NHS source). The best one for keeping hunger at bay, while adding protein to my daily totals, is the Oats and Whey Protein Bar from MyProtein. This has the best of carbs and protein which is ideal for a post-workout snack or during the day if hunger starts setting in. Oats keep you feeling fuller for longer and these bars aren’t laced with sugar which means you won’t be reaching for the cupboard straight after snacking either. These lack nutrients though, so while they add carbs and protein to your daily totals, they won’t give you the essential nutrients you need.
Rather than overcomplicating this – stick to fruit. We don’t eat enough of it as a nation, which has knock-on effects in terms of not having sufficient vitamins and minerals in our diet. Fruit is full of fibre which helps us keep fuller for longer as well. So while I could suggest a whole host of other snacks, we really need more fruit and it’s perfect to snack on.
I personally always have a banana after working out to replace my glycogen stores, so they don’t start burning off protein, as my goal is to gain more muscle. Yes, fruit turns into sugar, but the way the sugar is digested means it’s absorbed at a slower rate compared to the sugar from chocolate. This means you have energy for longer and it doesn’t spike your energy levels unlike eating sweets/chocolates. The vitamins and minerals you get from the fruit as well are essential as well which you don’t get from bad snacks!
Mixed nuts have always been banded about as healthy snacks, but like anything, in moderation. A small handful is enough, this article from the Britsh Heart Foundation backs this up, click here to read more about nuts. To keep it simple, I tend to use Amazons own mixed nut product, which you can try out here (See below Amazon Product).
There is an abundance of healthy snacks in the market, but with the country not eating enough fruit, it’s vital that we spend more time snacking on fruit. The problem with foods that might appear as though they are healthy, is that they might actually be high in sugar or lack vital nutrients we get largely from wholesome foods.
The importance of healthy snacks summarised
Having clear health and fitness goals, educating yourself on food (myfitnesspal tracking is great for this) and eating healthy snacks like fruit, is a great way to help you attain your health and fitness goals. Unhealthy snacks can really impact your overall calorie goals but they are likely to increase sugar and fat content towards your macros as well which are likely to be against your goals. Stick to fresh fruit for healthy snacks.
If you need help with your nutrition, setting health and fitness goals please get in contact by clicking here.
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