IN the old days, eating between mealtimes was considered the fastest way to obesity. However, more recently, science has shown that snacking can actually help people to lose weight and have a healthy diet.
That is, if you are filling up on the right kinds of food, and being mindful of how many kilojoules you are taking in over the course of a day, says the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) of South Africa.
Watch out for unhealthy fats and sugars in so called healthy snacks such as bran muffins and cereal bars. Fat-free foods are often packed with salt and sugar instead. And maybe that "organic" or "natural" sign on the label may be hiding some diet-sabotaging additions.
So here are some ideas from the HSF on what to reach for when you hit that mid-afternoon slump:
- Reconsider breakfast – so you may already have a healthy breakfast, but what about taking a leaf out of breakfast's book for later in the day.
That wholegrain toast topped with reduced sugar jam, or natural untoasted muesli can make for a quick, filling and nutritious snack.
- Nuts about nuts – keep your portion small, and you are getting a hit of protein, which will leave you feeling full.
Most nuts also contain heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and other nutrients that may help improve blood cholesterol levels.
- Mix it up – you can get more bang for your snack if you eat a combination of more than one food type, such as protein, fat or carbohydrate. For example, eat some nuts (protein and fat) with some grapes (carbohydrates), or wholegrain crackers (carbohydrates) with low- fat cottage cheese (protein and fat). Combo snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.
- It's all in the mind – If you snack while working or surfing the web, you won't be mindful of what you were eating, which could result in you heading back to eat more shortly afterwards.
- Come prepared – You just need to put in a little bit of planning to ensure that you don't turn in desperation to the nearest chocolate bar when hunger strikes.