These days, something as simple as making snacks can be so exhausting. Endless Googling for ideas, endless amounts of options, but not enough energy in the day to make any of it happen. Luckily for you, I’m the nutritionist who has your back because I’m fully on the pro-snack train… and in case you haven’t noticed, I have lots of information to share.
My goal for this episode is to undo your previous ideas of snacks and reveal some of the secrets to good snack-making for this crisis and beyond—because habits made during this time can stick, and as life begins to take yet another turn, let’s snack well as we find our way through this time.
I know for parents, snacks can be such a topic of dread. Kids want snacks all the time! And if you’re not a parent, you might feel guilty about your own snacking behaviours—the cookie or five you ate yesterday or the scoop, or if you’re Chris–half a tub of ice cream you sneak in when no one’s watching. But I think it’s time to breathe, educate yourself on healthy snacking, and forgive yourself a little, ok… a lot. This is a safe-snacking-space.
So today on EAT THIS with Lianne… Snacks, Snacks, Snacks! The importance of snacks for your body, healthy snacking lessons that can be applied to all of our meals, and some healthy snack ideas sprinkled throughout.
The parents I work with all say the same things:
- “I feel like all my kids are doing is eating.”
- “Why won’t they stop?”
- “My kid just asked for the 100th snack today and all they want is crap.”
And as a mom, I get this—kids just think you’re a factory of snacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then more snacks! Sometimes, if things are really busy, then you don’t want to spend the half an hour or so to make something healthy, so you point towards the chocolate bar, the bag of chips, or the gummy bears, even though there’s a banana right there, and the fastest food that I know of, an apple.
But even if you’re not a parent, you might be feeling the same thing. All you’re doing in a crisis like this one is work is get up, commute to the kitchen, get a bag of chips, a box of cookies, or chocolate something and head back to your desk. And then repeat, all, day, long. Junk food can be a way of comforting ourselves, especially in times of stress. That release of dopamine from chocolate for instance, can really get us motivated, and give a much needed lift throughout the day.
But what if I told you there were easy and quick lessons to apply to snack making, that learning the art and science of snacks is very easy! We’ll go through some key lessons on focus, weight loss, and energy that you can carry with you forever, and pass onto your kids. Spoiler alert: there’s a free snack guide I made for you, full of ideas you can share with yourself and your fellow quarantine buddies. So without further ado, here are some snack lessons!
First: are you on the snack train, and should you be? Are there benefits to snacking as an adult? We tend to think of snacks being more for kids—certainly the word brings up days on the school playground, when our parents would pack us snacks in little baggies and send us off. But snacking as an adult is more helpful than you think, and should be done way more, but maybe not in the way that you’ve been doing it so far. Either way, we shouldn’t feel guilty or childish about snacking!
In fact, healthy snacking can improve our focus and our mood. Think of your brain as having a bank account with a balance of 10/10 focus. This bank account is able to handle withdrawals and deposits. Every time we exert some brain effort, focus on a task, get work done, or solve a math problem and every time we make a choice, our 10/10 balance goes down, and our brain isn’t working at its fullest. That healthy snack can help restore our overall balance; our focus balance, our mood balance, our energy balance. What’s that you said? BRING IT ON? Yea, I know.
Carbohydrates and protein have been shown to help us make better choices and become more decisive. A study found that students who filled up on a high-carb breakfast were able to make better social decisions—like rejecting an unfair financial offer—than students who had a low-carb breakfast. This is because high-carb lead to higher levels of dopamine, the happy and feel good chemical. And this happy chemical is essential for making us feel good and help make good choices. So think of oats, fibre rich fruit like berries, or whole-grain bread with nut butter as you start the morning and even throughout the day, because it can fuel us with “decision-making energy”. If you’re anything like me, decisions are happening every minute of every day with work, kids, meetings, even what kind of tea should I make next… yea, lots of decisions.
This is also great for kids! Carbs are the key to keeping them calm, happy, and focused. Try apple slices with a warm nut butter mixed with a bit of raw honey. Or half a banana sliced down the middle—with peanut butter, chopped nuts or dried fruit, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Or just spread it with peanut butter, and roll it in my Crunchy Granola, a low-sugar recipe in my book Sprout Right Family Food.
Healthy snacks can also help us balance and even lose weight. It’s kind of counter intuitive right? How can eating more snacks help you lose more weight? Well, eating small meals every 3-5 hours can help resist the urge of overeating and avoiding extreme hunger and feeling HANGRY – remember I talked about that in episode 12? Avoiding extreme hunger can prevent us from heading straight for that bag of chips, box of cookies, grabbing a donut, cake or brownie. I know you know what I’m talking about.
That’s the easy part: eat more! But also keep your portions small. When you’re preparing snacks, try putting them in small containers or reusable bag that can be easily put in a pocket, a purse, or a backpack. Making them up in small containers can remove some of the temptation to go back and grab more, just like a full plate at the dinner table and then go back for seconds. We know that portion and plate size definitely correlates to weight loss. If you have kids, a small container can also signal to them that this is the end of the snack and stop them from pestering you more.
Packing our snacks with protein and carbohydrates help keep us full for longer, so protein and carbs need to be combined as you think of what to make. Fiber and water also need to be in there, which is much easier to do when staying clear processed options with added sugars and fats. So combine your apples with cheese, your fresh fruit with plain Greek yogurt, or your whole grain crackers with hummus or bean dip—avoid the candy bar if you can, which burns hot and fast but runs out really quick.
A good balance of protein and carbs can give that extra boost needed to get over the afternoon lull or the exhaustion during the 100th Zoom meeting of the day. Add these to your grocery list: walnuts, almonds, or pistachios to combine with raisins or dates. Find some raw honey, chia and hemp seeds that you can drizzle and sprinkle on a homemade yogurt parfait with colourful berries and granola.
Now, I can’t stress enough the importance of omega-3 fats that are good for immunity, heart health and head health. Omega-3 fats have a balance of EPA and DHA that can combat things like depression and anxiety, joint diseases, and inflammation. So it’s time to crack open that can of salmon or tuna, or put fish on the menu more often. Also grab those walnuts that have the highest amount of omega-3 of the all the nut kingdom. If you’re a parent, I know kids are sometimes not the biggest fans of tuna, or maybe you might not be either. So offering in a different way. How about working in a tuna melt? In my #cooktogether series on Sprout Right’s FB page and YouTube channel, I show you how to make an epic tuna melt if you need some inspiration or how-to. I have an idea… get your spouse or kid to watch it and make one for you, my loyal listener! It can be the omega-3 rich snack that your nutritionist approves of! Oh and know if fish isn’t on the menu in your home, my TAKE THIS by Lianne OMEGA BOOST is very much needed every, single, day.
Be sure to subscribe to this podcast and follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @sproutright. And get your free snack guide at sproutright.com/focus. I’ll see you next week!
Get more recipes in my book Sprout Right Family Food.
More recipes are available in my book Sprout Right Family Food—plus everything there is to know about getting your family off to a nutritious start, from birth to school age and beyond.
Get Sprout Right Family Food now!