Thinking back to the nutrition advice of about 20 years ago, the trend was all about munching on small meals every two to three hours to keep that metabolic fire burning.
Fast forward to today, and we've got a fresh perspective: too much snacking might not always be the best approach. Too much snacking, too often, can send our blood sugar levels into a constant tailspin, demanding more digestive enzymes and insulin than our bodies might actually need.
So when is it okay to snack?
Snacking provides an often much-needed energy boost, especially when there's a gap between meals, and it can help to keep our appetite in check to avoid overindulging later.
Certain moments throughout the day stand out as the most popular for snacking, with the period between lunch and dinner taking the spotlight. For many, lunch typically takes place at noon, and dinner might not roll around until six pm or later. This sizable gap can sometimes leave people feeling a bit 'hangry' and fatigued. Enter the perfect opportunity for a (well-balanced) snack to swoop in and provide that extra burst of fuel to carry you through the final stretch of the day before dinner.
When it comes to a good snack, it needs to meet a few criteria…
Firstly, a snack should be as close to nature as possible – unprocessed and bursting with goodness. Think simple foods like nuts, fruits, protein bars, or a refreshing smoothie.
Secondly, a healthy snack needs to be rich in protein, which gives you energy, helps you feel full, and is good for recovery from exercise. It also needs a good amount of healthy fats that will stabilise your blood sugar, as well as fibre for your digestive health.
Protein + Healthy Fats + Fibre = A Functional Snack
A simple example could be sliced biltong for protein, a handful of nuts as your healthy fat, and a fruit for some fibre.
The nice thing about this guide is that you can swap out each component with a variety of options. For example, you could change up the biltong with hard boiled eggs, and alternate between having raw nuts and organic cheese as your fat (if you can tolerate dairy).
A gentle reminder – in the realm of snacks, size matters! Whether it's nuts, cheese, or dried meat, a handful (around a third of a cup) is the golden rule.
Now that you know the fundamentals of snacking and a simple formula to guide you in crafting a functional snack, you are equipped to create the ideal fuel-filled boost precisely when you need it most. Whether it's a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a pre-workout boost, you can make every snack a purposeful and enjoyable part of your daily routine.