How to snack smarter

Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014
BE SNACK SAVVY: It's not always how you eat, but rather what you eat.

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To snack or not to snack ... the eternal question of consuming three meals a day or a series of smaller meals and snacks is frequently debated.

Perhaps a more useful approach is to consider how you can "snack smartly" should you find yourself genuinely hungry between meals, and avoid the food binges that tend to happen when we're ravenous but without a nutritious snack.

Here are the questions to ask ...

1) Will it fill you up?

If you do need to snack between meals, your snack should keep you full for at least a couple of hours. Any less than this will see you eating too frequently to allow your natural hunger and fullness signals to function optimally, while any longer would suggest your snack is more like a meal. Asking yourself this simple question before choosing your snack will also eliminate the easy-to-grab, low-nutrient snack choices such as biscuits, potato chips, snack bars and chocolates that are unlikely to keep you satisfied for long.

2) Does it contain protein?

Unlike carbohydrate-rich snacks such as muesli bars, biscuits and dried fruit, snacks that contain some protein will help to slow down the rate of digestion and as a result keep you fuller for longer after eating them. Combine a carbohydrate-rich food such as fruit, crackers or a snack bar with a protein-rich food such as yoghurt, cheese or nuts for the right nutritional balance.

3) Portions, portions, portions

When it comes to smart snacking, portion control is the key. Potato chips, banana bread, muffins and yoghurt are often packaged in large serving sizes that encourage us to eat far more than we need or want. A snack should contain 200 calories or less. Check nutritional labels or calorie-counting programs to keep an eye on portions.

4) Add vegetables

One of the most common reasons we feel hungry in between meals is that we have not eaten enough salad or vegetable bulk in our meals. Add low-calorie vegetables to your daily snacks to keep full and satisfied and add some nutrient-rich fresh food to your diet. Cut-up celery, carrots, snow peas and red capsicum make perfect snack accompaniments that will not only bulk up your snacks but may help you to control your weight long term.

Suggested snack choices

Nut-based snack bar

Four grain crackers with cheese

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Small skim latte

100 grams thick yoghurt and berries

Two corn crackers with cottage cheese

Half-cup edamame beans

Two cups popcorn

Mini protein bar and a piece of fruit

Two rye crackers with goat's cheese and tomato

Small hummus with vegetables

- What's your favourite snack? 

- Sydney Morning Herald


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