MANY people blame their rounder waistlines on festive season overload but snacks don't need to consist of high-carb, sugary and fatty treats in the holidays or at any other time.
Registered dietician Kele Moshugi, at specialist outsourced catering company RoyalMnandi, says when done correctly, snacking actually can help you to stay healthy, provide you with sustained energy and keep your metabolism active.
"The right snacks help to keep your blood glucose [sugar] stable throughout the day, thereby decreasing cravings and preventing over-compensating at mealtimes," she says.
Moshugi says the key to healthy snacking is in the foods you choose, the amount you eat and how often you snack.
"A healthy snack generally contains less than 200 calories. Ideally, where possible, people should strive to eat snacks containing less than 100 calories and limit foods that are higher in fat, sugar, and salt and lower in fibre," she comments.
"Examples of healthy ready-to- eat snack options include eating fruit with low fat yoghurt, vegetables with a light dip or low fat cottage cheese or whole grain crackers with hummus, peanut butter or low fat cheese."
She cautions against eating more than three snacks per day and urges people to be aware of portion sizes.
"Don't snack directly from a large container, box or bag. Instead try to buy small packages of food or take small portions from larger packages. And eat slowly!" she advises.
Moshugi also advises skipping the urge to nibble when you are bored, tired, upset or stressed.
"Learn to recognise true hunger and fullness. Instead of snacking try something else instead such as walking the dog, going for a jog, reading a book, writing in a journal or listening to your favourite music," she says.
"Also never reach for a snack when you are distracted such as watching TV, working on the computer, reading or driving. In these instances we tend not to be aware of how much we are actually consuming."
If avoiding cookies, cakes, chocolates, ice-cream, chips and deep-fried foods seems impossible, Moshugi suggests trying to eat only small amounts.
"If you're craving something sweet, instead of eating two cookies, eat one cookie and some fresh fruit. Or put a small scoop – golf ball size – of ice-cream into a small bowl and top it with fresh or frozen fruits," she suggests.
Drinking water is another way Moshugi says people can keep fuller for longer.
"Many people mistake hunger for thirst. If you have just had a snack and still feel hungry rather drink a glass of water instead of another snack. Besides keeping hunger at bay, everyone should try to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day to keep properly hydrated."