Do you want to know the truth about snacks?
In today’s weight obsessed world, “snacking” has definitely become an unhealthy pastime, hasn’t it?
That’s a shame, because it’s a nice substantive word and has a real feel-good factor about it.
The actual dictionary definition is “a small portion of food or drink or a light meal, especially one eaten between regular meals” – no mention of being unhealthy there so it’s about time to get rid of the negative connotations!
The blame for the word’s downfall can be laid at the food manufacturers/retailer’s door…the term “snack” has been well and truly hijacked and used to sell us all sorts of foods and drinks that we cannot resist and are of little nutritional value. If you don’t agree, then next time you’re in a supermarket, head for the “snacks” section and quickly try to ascertain what proportion of the products on display are actually good for you from a nutritional point of view. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a handy “healthy snacks” section (although you can guarantee it’ll be small in comparison) although the whole concept of “healthy” food sections makes a mockery of the retailer’s assertions that they want their customer to eat healthily at all!
We strongly feel that most people know deep down what they should be eating…what’s healthy and what’s not. A fascinating programme last year by the University of Surrey studied a group of children eating their lunch. Half were offered chopped fruit and veg from a separate table and the other half had all their healthy food in amongst the normal serving of hot food.
Much to the researcher’s surprise, the second group of children picked nearly twice as much of the healthy options as the first…demonstrating that kids are likely to pick the healthy choices unprompted provided it’s easily to hand.
What’s the relevance of this?
Well, apart from illustrating that humans probably start off life with an innate sense of the right foods to eat (no baby is born with an inner desire to eat a chocolate bar) if left to their own devices and uninfluenced by adults or peers, it also shows that if you have plenty of fruit, veg and other healthy options readily to hand you’re much more likely to snack on these first. And once you have eaten them, you’re much less likely to snack on the bad stuff.
Likewise, our lives have developed around things called “mealtimes” which way back were connected with our physical requirements; get up, eat something, go out and hunt and if you were lucky eat something, go to bed.
The mealtimes and meals have stuck, but they’re no longer the necessities they were. We tend to eat set quantities with no real correlation between what we eat and what our bodies need. If you were stranded on a desert island, snacking on wild fruit and impromptu meals based around successful hunting expeditions would quickly become the norm (and one’s weight presumably would not be an issue after a relatively short time).
What can we take from all this?
1. Snacking doesn’t have to be bad for you…only the choice of snacks.
2. When you go shopping, load up the basket with “healthy” snacks from the fruit, veg and nut sections and COMPLETELY MISS OUT the crisp/biscuit/cake/fizzy drink aisles. Walk straight past them and don’t look back. Once you’ve done this once, you’ll feel great about yourself!
3. Bring out the child in you and make sure you make these snacks easily available. When you get home, take a minute (and that’s all it is) to prepare the fruit and veg and have them ready to eat in the fridge or on the side. That way you’ll ensure that you are snacking on the good stuff, and won’t be tempted (or, after a while, need) to seek out the bad.
4. Whilst your normal daily routine should consist of three meals with little in between, if you have snacked a lot during the morning (for what ever reason), then miss out your lunch…your body won’t need it and will easily last until supper.