Satisfying Snacks Made Simple

Last weekend Alec Bourne, Head Chef at Exeter School and myself delivered a couple of talks at the Exeter Food and Drink Festival. It was an honour to be a part of such a wonderful event that brings together the best food producers in the South West of England along with the best Chefs and professional foodie knowledge and ideas.

During our sessions I discussed the pros and cons of snacking and Alec demonstrated how to prepare some super easy, delicious and nutritious snacks at home. These included 3 dips: hummus, spring pea, and cannellini bean with chilli, plus seeded oatcakes and our date and almond energy balls. The recipes for these can be found here.

The audience loved trying everything we prepared and there were lots of thumbs up and people inspired to try these at home. Just what we were aiming for!

Roughly 70% of the UK population report snacking and even though the UK market for so called healthy snacks (those lower in sugar and fat and possibly higher in protein) has increased dramatically, 61% of the time people still chose to snack on crisps, chocolate and biscuits.

I busted some myths:

Ø Regular snacking increase metabolism = no it doesn’t

Ø Snacking causes weight gain:  it will only increase your weight if you are eating more calories than you need over the course of the day as a result.  Therefore it’s important that if you snack you reduce your portion at mealtimes and make sure snacks aren’t too large.

The research into whether snacking is a good or bad thing is contradictory.

Some of the possible benefits:

  • appetite control

  • blood sugar control

  • assist with brain function/concentration

  • bodyweight management

  • decrease GI symptoms such as reflux or bloating

 

Some of the possible Negatives:

  • May encourage overeating

  • Often involves high fat/sugar foods

  • Can be habitual and not taken into consideration at other meals

  • May be encouraged socially e.g. tea and cake, rewarding behaviours and therefore contributing to unhealthy eating behaviours

  • If too frequent it has a negative impact on your teeth

 

The bottom line = very individual

What you snack on and how much you snack on depends on your:

  • activity levels

  • hunger

  • age

  • preferences

  • medical conditions

  • nutritional goals

 

 My advice was to make your snacks count by choosing to make snacks nutritious and satisfying.

 

My top tips over the weekend for encouraging healthier snacking were:

  1. Only snack if you are actually hungry

  2. Choose wholegrains to up the fibre (so important for gut health)

  3. Combine carbs and protein, plus beneficial unsaturated fats so that the snack keeps you fuller for longer and is nutrient dense e.g. peanut butter on toast, yoghurt and fruit, avocado and toasted muffin, oatcakes and cheese.

  4. Mix it up!  Eating as much variety across the day is key and complimenting your snacks with your meals is great so if you are having a carb heavy dinner e.g. pasta, choose fruit or veg sticks and hummus as your snack

  5. Satisfaction also comes from choosing what you really fancy, so that you don’t end up eating several different things before you finally have what you really wanted e.g. chocolate and therefore you’ve consumed a lot more in total.

  6. Plan to have healthy snacks on hand as planned snacks tend to be healthier, whilst people impulse snacking tend to make worse choices/more temptation

  7. Read labels and look for few ingredients and whole foods

  8. Prepare your own! This is especially good for controlling amount of salt in foods for young children

  9. Keep portions small

Our snacks would make the ideal finger foods for young children and the dips would be a great way to introduce new flavours to your children. Making your own means you can leave out the salt.