NIKI BEZZANT: How To Make The Most of Your Snacks

Niki

Niki Bezzant is a writer, speaker and commentator who is passionate about food and health. Niki has been involved in the food media for 20 years. She was founding editor of Healthy Food Guide magazine, and is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday, the Monday Herald Be Well, and a frequent contributor to broadcast media. She is a proud ambassador for the Garden to Table  programme which helps kids learn how to grow, cook and share food. She is a member of the Council of Directors for the True Health Initiative and a board member for the NZ Nutrition Foundation.

How to make the most of your snacks

Snacking is an eating behaviour most of us do to some extent. Globally, snacking has become part of our food culture.

There is a wide belief that we need a couple of snacks a day on top of our meals. The idea of ‘six small meals a day’ is also often promoted to help weight loss and health. It’s proposed that snacking boosts metabolism and helps us maintain stable blood sugar, as well as helping us eat less by stopping us from getting too hungry.

But do we really need to snack?

The research shows snacking can be both helpful and harmful to our overall health. It really depends on the quality and quantity of our snacks. If you’re a snacker, here’s how to make it work for you.

  1. Check in with your hunger. People who are intuitive eaters know how to eat when they’re hungry, and not eat when they’re not. Sometimes we may snack due to social or psychological conditioning: just because it’s morning tea time or we feel low in energy or bored. Sometimes we might be better off getting up, getting outside and moving around to refresh ourselves rather than snacking. On the other hand if we’re in active jobs and we’re feeling hungry, a nutritious snack could be just the thing.
  2. Go for whole foods. Our snacks are a great opportunity to get good nutrition in! If we go for whole, unprocessed foods, we’ll have a good chance of doing that. Fruit and veges make great snacks, especially if you can pair them with protein; a sliced apple with some cheddar cheese, for example, or a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts.
  3. Don’t worry about ‘the rules’. A snack can be any type of food. If you want to have cereal and yoghurt in the afternoon, or a cup of soup in the morning, go for it. Chopped veges and hummus, edamame beans, nuts and seeds or hard-boiled eggs are great snacks, any time of day.
  4. Watch for health halos. There are some good packaged snack options around, but also some making unwarranted health claims. Snack balls and bars may look and taste healthy – and some are – but some are packed with added sugar and calories. Claims of ‘raw’ and ‘organic’ are nice, but don’t mean anything, nutrition-wise. And beware of ‘no refined sugar’. There’s no official definition for this term, and unrefined sugar is just the same, to your body, as refined sugar is