If you go more than 4 or 5 hours between meals, a midafternoon snack might be just what the doctor ordered to help you to keep your blood glucose steady. Snacking is also important if you're taking medication that could cause a blood-glucose low between meals. Discuss with a health professional which approach is right for you.
Keep your snacks to 630kJ or less.
The danger of snacks is that they can become more like extra meals if you go overboard. First, make sure you’re truly hungry – and not just bored or stressed or craving chocolate – before reaching for a snack. Then limit yourself to 630kJ per snack. This will help to keep your snacking ‘honest’. After all, it’s hard to find a chocolate bar with only 630kJ. And if you’re hankering after chocolate, and a healthier snack doesn’t appeal, you’re probably not truly hungry.
Beware of low-fat snacks.
Studies show that people tend to eat about 28 per cent more of a snack if they think it’s low-fat. But lowfat snacks are not necessarily low in sugar or starch, and tend to have only 11 per cent fewer kilojoules than their full-fat counterparts. Stick to the same amount you’d eat if you thought the snack was full-fat.
Put your snacks on a plate.
Eat straight out of the bag and you’re guaranteed to eat more, whether it’s chips, lollies or biscuits. Instead, put a small portion on a plate, seal up the bag and put it away. Then sit down and enjoy your snack.
Have a bag full.
A single serving bag, that is. You’re much more likely to stop after one serving if you don’t have to measure it out yourself. If paying more for extra packaging that will eventually clog landfills bothers you, separate your snacks yourself into reusable single-serving containers when you get home from the supermarket. They’ll be ready to grab when you’re ready to eat them.
Eat a handful of nuts.
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts and cashews contain the healthy monounsaturated fats that lower chol esterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. And because they’re packed with protein and ‘good’ fat and have little carbohydrate, they won’t raise blood glucose as much as savoury crackers or pretzels do. Because many nuts are high in kilojoules (almonds are the lowest), stick to 25g, or about the amount that will fit in the palm of your hand.
Try a few wholegrain crackers with peanut butter.
They contain more protein and fewer carbohydrates than a bigger pile of crackers on their own, and your blood glucose won’t rise as much.
Snack on raw vegetables.
Get in an extra serving of vegetables by nibbling on cherry tomatoes, carrots, red and green capsicum, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower. Eat them plain or dip them in low-fat yogurt, a light salad dressing or hummus (stick with 1 to 2 tablespoons’ worth).
Spread some tomato salsa over eggplant slices.
The salsa has only about 15g of carbohydrates, 330kJ and 1g of fat.
Sip a small cup of vegetable soup.
Cook nonstarchy vegetables such as spinach, onion, celery, green beans and carrots in some vegetable or chicken stock. It’s filling, full of nutrients and low in carbohydrates.
Indulge in a few decadent bites.
Have a treat of three dried apricots, a small piece – one or two squares – of dark chocolate and three walnuts or almonds, suggests Vicki Saunders, RD, who teaches nutrition education programs at St Helena Hospital in Napa Valley, California. Savour every nibble.
Blend a fruit smoothie.
Combine half a chopped banana, 170ml low-fat plain yogurt and a sweetener. Blend until smooth.
Freeze grapes and peeled bananas.
Seal them in a sandwich bag and throw it into the freezer. Once frozen, they’re a refreshing and healthy treat. You can eat 20 red seedless grapes and still consume only 420kJ.
Eat an apple – and the skin.
An apple with the skin contains about 3g of fibre. The skin packs a double benefit, carrying healthy soluble fibre that helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease as well as antioxidants that fight free radicals and lower the risk of diabetes complications.
Try reduced-fat mini cheeses.
Each one contains only 210kJ. These are one of the few portable goodies rich in protein.
Have your chocolate ‘bar’ frozen.
By that we mean enjoy a chocolate paddle-pop. They taste delightfully chocolatey but contain only about 450kJ.
Freeze berries and fruit for use in smoothies.
Make up single-portion mixed bags of chopped banana, apple and berries that you can keep in the freezer. Take one out, allow to thaw a little, then blend with 200ml soy beverage for a cool smoothie.