Oh, how I sometimes long for the days when I lived with my parents; wholly dependent on them for food, meals lovingly prepared, to the clock. Back then, snacks weren’t all the rage like they are now… If I pined at 11AM for sustenance, I was told to hang on until lunch-time when I would gratefully devour my sandwiches, salad, or anything that was provided! I would eat, drink, then off I went, running wild and free, feeling the welcome hunger pangs in my stomach once again in the afternoon which signified that another meal was just around the corner. I never felt anxious about the hunger, just happy that I could run around a bit more.
When I left home and pioneered to Africa at age 19, I entered into a new, exciting territory of the ‘snack on demand’ variety. This seemed delightful at first, as suddenly I realized that I could choose to eat massive peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast (using half a pot of peanut butter, should I so wish to), and have another one of these mid-morning, ice-cream in the mall after a morning’s teaching, half of a bar of chocolate before dinner. I could break all the rules, but yes… my health and weight did suffer terribly; apparently not so intelligent after all!
Fast-forward to the birth of my daughter — because of my constant breastfeeding I was incredibly hungry and thirsty, and therefore I ate and drank constantly. My diet consisted of mainly water, orange juice and eating anything that was around.
It was also then that I had discovered joy of joys, raw chocolate! At the same time, new and healthy snacks were making their way into the market, my favourites being Jason Vale’s Juice in a Bar and Bounce Balls (one healthier than the other!). But as my need to constantly graze lessened, I still continued to snack all day, as hunger now scared me. If I ever felt an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach (or even in my throat) I would start to panic and eat something to lessen that worry. The meal-time would come, and I would eat but not be truly hungry.
It then dawned on me, not so long ago, that I was never actually hungry. Over time, I had become dependent on the continuous supply of snacks (albeit healthier choices). Although I am certainly not a calorie counter, I wondered a few months ago why I felt so good from the inside out but was finding it really difficult to shift the extra pounds — my weight was just not coming off at all. I did a quick calculation and discovered that I was eating an extra 1000+ calories per day in snacking! Case solved.
So, the present day ‘me’ is remembering the ‘me’ of the past — when I ate more sacredly, when I didn’t just eat on a whim, when sometimes, having the feeling of waiting for food, rather than addressing every pang of hunger is a sign of restraint and moderation and not of excessive eating.
I am trialling not snacking at the moment and it is strangely freeing! I am not anti-snacking; I just need to realize that intelligent snacking also means having fresh, high water content foods, not always nuts, chocolate, dehydrated goodies and bars.
So, you want to snack?
There are various schools of thought about snacking, how many meals to have a day and portion sizes but there is no one veritable way to suit every single person on the planet; you need to find what suits you best. Here are some ideas for intelligent snacking for better health, weight loss, or even if you want to remain the weight you are.
1. There are hundreds of healthy snacks on the market today but many of them are still high in fat, which whilst may be good fat, still means you need to limit them. Don’t just buy and eat because it’s full of ingredients you approve of; buy and eat because your body needs it for fuel.
2. Choose fresh and live snacks — a simple apple for example! Dig it out of the bottom of your bag (or maybe even buy or pick a fresh one!), and eat it, slowly. Savour it! Eat every part you can and chew each mouthful. A piece of celery, dipped in a tomato salsa… half an avocado, mashed up with lemon and spooned into a mushroom cup… think outside the snack box!
3. Make every snack sacred. When we think of the word snack, we often think ‘rush’ and ‘got to eat this quickly so I can get on with things’ or ‘I will just eat this in the car to save time’. Prepare some time aside to sit and eat your snack. Prepare it lovingly as you would a meal. And only eat it if you feel you body truly needs it.
4. Make your own snacks! I just snacked on home-made kale chips with a brazil nut/lemon/pepper sauce. It was divine! I could have eaten a whole bar of something, but this definitely sufficed.
5. If you are in a ‘snack trap’ then ask yourself why you feel the need to eat constantly. Is it to fill an empty space? Are you worried like I was about feeling the hunger? Do you snack consciously, or without thought? Get to the root of this and then begin to simply savour your meals, and when it comes to the point where you’d usually grab any old snack, think about your choices. Would this mainstream chocolate bar really fill the gap or will it leave you starving in half an hour? Could you slowly eat a small handful of almonds instead or enjoy a pot of fragrant strawberries?
Snacking is not a bad thing at all. For me, it just needs to be more intelligent! But, if you feel like the ultimate in snacks (and aren’t too fussed about combining nuts with fruit) then do try out the following recipe — still eat it slowly, savour each mouthful and eat it consciously! Bon Appétit!