By Carla Oates
Snacking a bit more than usual? Us too. Sometimes the urge to graze is as simple as satiating hunger. Other times—especially when you’re dealing with big life changes, say adjusting to life WFH—it might be less about healthy eating and more about stress, anxiety, boredom, habit or feeling tired. But no matter where your cravings are coming from, listening to your body and eating wholefood, nutrient-dense healthy snacks when you really need them is essential.
Getting smart about snacks will not only help you avoid brain fog, support your moods, energy levels and maintain a healthy weight during isolation, but will also support your health and promote a healthy microbiome, too. Here are some of our favourite snacking tips, snack ideas and snack foods to try at home...
Naturopath Rhiona Robertson suggests planning your snacks for the week just like you would your meals. Stock your fridge with healthy foods like fresh fruit and veggies and skip processed and junk foods (like candy bars, potato chips, pretzels etc) in favour of things like raw nuts, homemade trail mix or whole grain crackers with hummus, smoothie ingredients and nourishing snacks packed with healthy fats and protein to keep you satisfied—we have plenty of ideas on The Digest.
Listen To Your Body
Take a moment to tune in to how you’re feeling—are you truly hungry or is something else driving your cravings? Sometimes it’s more about thirst: it’s easy to get confused and eat when your body really wants hydration. Take a break for a big glass of water or a cup of tea (here’s where we’d also suggest your daily GLOW with a boost of HYDRATION!). Robertson also recommends having foods on hand with high water content, such as cucumbers, baby carrots, celery, coconut and pomegranate, while also including snacks like hummus or apples and nut or peanut butter to ensure you’re getting a healthy balance of protein, fats and fibre. And remember to enjoy your snack time. Take a few deep breaths, step back from your desk and eat mindfully away from your screen to avoid overeating before your next meal.
Protein (rather than refined sugars and carbohydrates) helps to even out your blood sugar response, keeps you fuller for longer and boosts your basal metabolic rate. Protein-rich savoury muffins or smoothies that incorporate The Beauty Chef’s BODY are great options—our yum chai smoothie and this rooibos, fig and nut butter smoothie are some of our favourites. Other good protein sources include boiled eggs or a ricotta or quark cheese dip with veggie sticks.
Carving a biscuit? Bake your own so you can boost the protein and good fat content by using almond flour, or adding in some chia seeds, as we do for our raw double choc, macadamia and fig biscuits and lemon and matcha shortbreads.
Train Your Tastebuds
It might sound counterintuitive, but if you have a sweet tooth, bitter or sour foods can help curb sugar cravings because they act as prebiotics and aid digestion by increasing saliva and stomach acids.
Research has shown you can improve your tolerance of bitter foods by eating more of them. Try including a shot of lemon juice or unpasteurised apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water half an hour before meals. Or begin your meals with a small salad of bitter leaves such as rocket, endive or radicchio. You may find yourself craving sauerkraut instead of butter and jam on toast!
When it comes to dessert, Carla’s go-to is a tasting platter with dark chocolate, berries, nuts and herbs—it’s beautiful, healthy and caters to varying tastes. Fresh fruit with simple Greek yogurt or a sprinkling of homemade granola is also a good option.
Take A Break
Robertson says constant grazing means your digestive system never has time to rest and do its job properly. “Your body has a recurring pattern called the migrating motility complex (MMC) that moves food through your digestive tract, removing the build-up of undigested food and eating interrupts this process,” she says.
“Eating also brings with it a plethora of ‘information’ for your digestive system to contend with, there’s potential allergens, toxins and compounds for the body to digest, react to or absorb. Each of these things takes energy, therefore allowing your body to rest between meals helps to improve the digestive process. A constant ongoing barrage of ‘information’ and potential dietary triggers means our digestive system is working all the time, sometimes overtime.”
When you constantly interrupt the MMC and hinder it from forming a regular rhythm, it can’t remove undigested food from your system. That can mean having undigested food sitting in your body, breaking down, increasing your toxic load and creating an imbalance in your gut microbes.
Robertson recommends smart snacking by sticking to one or two healthy snacks a day. “Generally speaking, leaving a gap of about 1.5 hours between meals and snacks is a good guideline to follow to keep your MMC running properly,” she says.