To snack or not to snack? That is the question we ask ourselves each and every day. As such, it is critical to understand that we control our food choices by the power of what we focus on at any given moment.
And this is where things go wrong for most people. They grab whatever is convenient or whatever they crave. They focus on the taste of the chocolate chip cookie instead of how it makes them feel afterward. What is healthy and nourishing becomes secondary to what type of snack will give them a quick fix and keep them full for long.
The issue with this type of thinking is that most often the foods that fill you up are not the same ones that will energize and nourish you. Think back to the last time you ate a huge meal – how did you feel? Possibly stuffed to the point of fatigue! This energy drain occurs because the body can devote an overwhelming amount of energy to digestion if it needs to.
The Fresher the Better
On the flip side, snacking on healthy fresh foods throughout the day is a better way to boost your energy, blood sugar levels, and mental alertness, all of which reduce fatigue and prevent the overeating that can arise from extreme hunger. As a general rule of thumb, consider fresh water-rich whole foods such as veggies, fruit, and nuts/seeds (preferably in that order). Take some time in the evening to chop carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, and broccoli, and store them in a container in the refrigerator. Not just as a snack but also as an addition to your family holiday meal, make homemade chickpea or lentil hummus as a calcium- and protein-rich accompaniment to your water-rich veggies.
Likewise, you can create a wonderful salad with any of your favorite fruits.
A helpful hint is to squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the fruit to prevent them from ripening (due to oxidation) too quickly. Also, try sprinkling some ground cinnamon over your fruit to lower the sugar load that they may have. Cinnamon’s effect on blood sugar is believed to be due to a proanthocyanidin, an active ingredient that increases sensitivity of receptors to insulin. However, cinnamon in large doses may be toxic, so don’t assume that if the relatively small amounts help, larger amounts will work better.
In moderation, nuts and seeds are also healthy raw snacks that are suitable for holiday parties. They are great sources of protein and healthy fats, which will keep you satiated for a longer amount of time. Look for walnuts and sunflower seeds for their omega-3 fatty acids, almonds for their protein content, and pumpkin seeds for their amazing iron and zinc content.
Most importantly, select nuts and seeds that are raw and unsalted. Roasting destroys the delicate essential fats, proteins, antioxidants, and other nutrients that these nuts and seeds are renowned for.
Bonus Tip: Try trail mix containing goji berries, raw cacao nibs, dried organic apricots, and any of your favourite nuts and seeds. Goji berries and raw cacao are the food chain’s greatest source of antioxidants and energy. Give this energizing trail mix a shot and you will never need another coffee!
So when is the best time to snack? The simple answer is to listen to your body. If you’re not hungry, then don’t eat. At the same time, the last thing you want to do is binge on bad foods because you haven’t eaten all day. Come to work prepared with a fixed amount of healthy snacks and graze on them throughout the day. If you fuel your body with nutrient-dense raw foods, you will eat less and have far more energy.
Wolfe, D. The Sunfood Diet Success System. Maul Bros. Publishing, San Diego, CA (2006).
Khan, A (2003). Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 26(12):3215-3218.