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Late-night forager or fish-finger stealer? Find out your snacking type and banish your inner munchie monster for good
ands up if you regularly snack between meals. If so, that makes you one of the whopping 95% of us who do – and it’s more likely to be crisps than kale (funny that). But if you’re looking to eat well and help stop your jeans from straining at the seams, it’s time to work out what’s behind your munching habits – and come up with ways to break them. We’ve identified some common snacking ‘tribes’ and found the insider tips (and healthier food swaps!) to help you win your between-meal battles…
SNACK PSYCHE ‘Being a parent is exhausting: your sleep can suffer, which could affect your blood-sugar levels and hunger hormones,’ says leading nutritionist Amanda Ursell. Getting enough slumber is very important. ‘The meals we often give our children, such as fish fingers, are the kind of comfort food we crave when we’re tired,’ explains Jane Ogden, a psychologist and author of The Psychology Of Eating. So decide whether you’d be better off eating with your kids. ‘If so, sit with them, put your fish fingers on a plate and enjoy your meal,’ she adds. ‘If not, plan what you’ll have for dinner later, so you won’t ruin your appetite.’
SNACKTION PLAN ‘If you can’t last until lunch or dinner, choose a snack that offers a gentle and steady release of energy to help regulate your blood sugar and energy levels,’ says Amanda. ‘Try a wholegrain sandwich with banana and a teaspoon of nut butter – such as peanut, cashew or almond [we like Meridian Smooth Almond Butter, £3.49/349 points, 170g] – which contains fibre, protein and good fats. This sarnie won’t send your blood sugars soaring, and the banana adds natural sweetness. Or have a low-fat Greek yoghurt, add strawberries and grate dark chocolate over it.’ Something warming? ‘Peel a banana, wrap it in foil, then bake it in the oven,’ she adds. Then why not try an occasional splash of Sweet Freedom Choc Shot Liquid Chocolate Orange Spice, £3.50/350 points (320g), on top?
SNACK PSYCHE ‘People use food to manage emotions such as boredom,’ says Jane. ‘For others, it’s habit.’ But studies show that you’re less likely to tuck in when effort is involved. ‘If you have to walk to get a biscuit, it’s time to reconsider whether or not you really want it,’ adds Jane. ‘Plus, if other people see you snacking, you may feel like you’re being monitored and be more self-conscious.’
SNACKTION PLAN Empty the Drawer Of Temptation. Another top tip? Messy environments can make us feel stressed and crave indulgent snacks, so give your desk a spring clean, starting with those biscuit packets. ‘If your tum always growls before lunch, upgrade your breakfast,’ suggests Amanda. ‘Eating eggs could lead to less snacking and possibly around 400 fewer calories a day.’ Or make a super-filling smoothie the night before. We love the NutriBullet Graphite Blender Boots.com only £79.99/7,999 points (12-piece set). Add a splash of milk, some low-fat Greek yoghurt for protein, oats – try Planet Organic Sprouted Naked Oats, £3.99/399 points (300g) – to help keep your blood sugars on an even keel*, a handful of strawberries for flavour, a teaspoon of seeds for good fats and a cereal bowlful of spinach to help you hit your five-a-day. Swap crisps for a 30g portion of nuts. Cashews contain iron, which helps maintain energy levels, while Brazils provide immunity-supporting selenium, so mix them up. Fancy a treat? Go for a small bar or a few squares of dark chocolate. Try Ohso Good Chocolate Lemon Belgian Chocolate Bars With Live Cultures, £3.99/399 points (pack of 7 x 13.5g), with only 63 calories per bar.
SNACK PSYCHE ‘If you’re eating three healthy, balanced meals a day, you shouldn’t have a major sugar crash,’ says Jane. ‘It could be tiredness or even dehydration.’ So how do we interpret what’s hunger and what’s just a craving? ‘Real hunger happens from the neck down – a rumbling tummy, an empty feeling,’ she explains. ‘Emotional cravings are from the neck up. You fancy eating something that makes you feel a certain way – sweetness, chewiness, hot food, for comfort. If you’re truly hungry, an apple would satisfy, but that’s rarely what you’re fantasising about!’
SNACKTION PLAN ‘If you always need an energy boost at 4pm, have a skinny cappuccino (full-fat milk has too much saturated fat) with no sugar at 3.30pm. It will take 15-45 minutes to reach your bloodstream,’ says Amanda. ‘Don’t like tea or coffee? Have skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and some fruit instead,’ she adds. Fancy a biscuit? We love oatcakes, such as Nairn’s Gluten Free Biscuit Breaks Oats & Stem Ginger, £2.25/225 points (160g). Oats contain beta-glucans, which help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle†.
SNACK PSYCHE It’s a fact that the more telly you watch, the more you eat, but why? ‘You’re mindlessly scoffing,’ explains Jane. ‘Make that harder for yourself. Don’t put food on your lap, and plan your meals so they’re more of an event.’
SNACKTION PLAN ‘If you still want the occasional TV treat, it’s all about opting for the healthiest version – and portion control,’ says Amanda. ‘I pop my own natural popcorn and sprinkle cocoa powder on it for sweetness. It contains fibre, which can take longer to digest.’ Can’t be bothered making it yourself? We suggest Boots Shapers Sweet & Salty Popcorn Boots Exclusive 70p/70 points (20g). ‘Baked crisps are also a good alternative – there’s less fat and fewer calories compared with the fried versions,’ advises Amanda. ‘Go for the smallest bag and check the kind of oil they’re baked in (rapeseed and olive oil are better), as this can keep saturated fats down – 1.5g per 100g or less is considered low.’ Our new TV snack? A bag of Walkers Ready Salted Baked Crisps, 75p/75 points (37.5g), with 70% less fat than the originals. But dip in using the wrong hand. ‘Doing so makes you more aware of how much you’re eating,’ explains Jane. Clever!
SNACK PSYCHE ‘This is about rewarding yourself at the end of a long, hard day. So it may be that you’re seeking comfort, not cake,’ says Jane. She suggests trying to find something else. ‘I sip peppermint tea in bed – it helps me feel warm and cosy. And brush your teeth after dinner – you’ll be less likely to eat and drink, especially any bad stuff.’
SNACKTION PLAN ‘Have a glass of skimmed milk, a small pot of custard or rice pudding, or a lower-sugar yoghurt,’ says Amanda. You could also have a small bowl of cereal that contains healthy carbs – try Betavivo Crispy Oat Heart Cereal Boots.com only (15 x 23g; see online for price). Or drink soothing tea. Our favourite is Pukka Night Time Tea, £2.39/239 points (20 sachets) – it contains organic oat flower, lavender and lime flower.
*Consumption of beta-glucans from oats or barley, as part of a meal, contributes to the reduction of the rise in blood-sugar levels after that meal. Portion must contain at least 4g of beta-glucans from oats or barley for each 30g of available carbohydrates in a quantified portion as part of the meal.
†The beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3g of oats, oat bran, barley or barley bran, or a mixture of these beta-glucans.
Words Laura Potter Photography Will Heap