Key 8 - Snack on Fruit and a Few Nuts

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Focus on Fruit and a Few Nuts for snacks in-between meals.

Snacking all the time, between meals or while preparing a meal is one the major causes of obesity in the world. Research has shown that snacking has consistently increased over the past few decades. For some reason people rationalise that food eaten while moving around the kitchen, driving in the car or while watching TV or busy at the computer doesn’t count as eating. It is as if the calories were not consumed because they were not properly dished up on a plate and not eaten with a knife and fork. We must point you to the obvious - that every time you bite, chew or swallow, you are taking in calories (except of course for sugar free chewing gum, water and artificially sweetened cold drink). Every time you open your mouth, other than to speak or breathe, you will be eating either for your health or for your ill-health.

Snacking is a bad habit and often people do it because their hands (and mouths) want to do something. At times it is just boredom - “I have nothing to do so let’s eat something”. Some people feel they have to eat something every time they walk past the fridge or pantry and others eat due to emotional reasons. Eating at such a point is a bad idea, because it is always excess calories that your body will have to layer down as fat.

However, it is true that anyone of us may need a snack between meals to get the energy levels up and the brain focused, but this should not be used as an excuse to snack all the time. One snack between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner is fine as long as it doesn’t constitute another meal. It should be small like a fruit or perhaps a handful of nuts with a few dried fruit.

Target the nutritious and healthy snacks. Your body needs quite a lot of essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This is the stuff that makes you feel sharp and keeps your body’s metabolism on the go. People who eat nutritious food all the time are fitter, stronger and they look and feel better. They are also definitely healthier! The idea is to choose the healthier option when you have to make choices on what to snack. We are confronted daily with these choices and if you can manage to consistently move away from non-nutritious snacks towards more nutritious and healthy foods, your health and the way you feel will consistently improve. We can also not over emphasize that, when you eat regular, balanced meals, it is much easier to choose and prefer a healthier snack. Unhealthy snacking is caused, at least 90% of the time, by skipping meals or eating unbalanced meals.

The three options below, although packed with energy, are nutritionally depleted. They have very little to add to your health. You will feel spiked and more focused for 30 minutes to an hour after which your energy levels will wane very quickly again.

  • A candy bar and a soft drink
  • Coffee with cream and lots of sugar and the ever available cookie.
  • A packet of potato crisps from the canteen.

If you really are very hungry and need an in-between snack, always consider a fruit.  A fruit and a few nuts of some sort bring with it some heavy artillery to make you feel better and improve your health. The fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals to give your metabolism a stir. It also contains fibre that packs loads of health benefits. All nuts have some protein that means you should get material to build new muscle cells. Also, unlike the candy bar, the cream, the cookie and the potato crisps, the nuts are packed with healthy unsaturated (soft) fats that you need for your skin, eyes, heart and brain. A snack like this will lift your blood sugar only slightly and sustain you till the next meal.

A very healthy natural alternative to crisps, is fresh popcorn. It is much cheaper and we know now that it is categorised as a whole grain. It is a low calorie, high fibre, low fat, sugar free, low sodium (provided you don’t add too much salt) choice and to top it all it has a Low GI! Pop your own and find creative ways how to give it flavour, like adding your favourite herbs and spices to it. However, try to stick to two handfuls and not a whole packet or movie box of it!

When entertaining at home, treat your guests to a snack platter filled with baby tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms, celery, green/red peppers, snap peas and baby corn sticks served with a delicious dip made with fat free cottage cheese and sweet chili sauce. You may want to add some chopped chives or peppadews to your dip to jazz it up bit. Not only does this colourful platter look inviting and festive, but it is super healthy and may prove to be the most popular of the whole lot. It also fills you up and helps you to not eat too much dry-wors or crisps that might be served as well.

Many snack choices like dry-wors and crisps contain up to 35 % fat (mostly the bad types), but not to worry because there are delicious alternatives like game and ostrich biltong. Kudu is a big favourite. Wors made of game or ostrich can also be braaied and refrigerated and served in small bite sized pieces with some tomato sauce or salsa. 

Fortunately, again we need not to be victims, but we can expect and plan our healthy way to the future. Maybe it is time to think offensively about our health. Defensive thinking states we need to defend health, whilst offensive is all about health improvement. Healthy on the go foods include:

  • A portion of any kind of fruit, preferably fresh, but dried is also good.
  • A fruit bar is much smarter than a chocolate bar.
  • A handful of nuts are much smarter than potato crisps, but even better if mixed with raisins or dried fruit.
  • A small tub (100 ml) of low fat fruit yoghurt should sustain your energy levels excellently. Freeze it for an “ice cream” treat.
  • If you snack on biltong, be careful not to have too much and choose game or ostrich rather than beef. If you prefer beef, at least have it without fat.

The beauty about dried fruit is that there is no peeling to be done. Often there are no pips. It doesn’t spoil and it is very filling. Have some fluids with it to keep you satisfied until the next meal. You should keep in mind that two halves of the dried fruit equals one fresh fruit. You cannot have it in unlimited quantities, but I yet have to meet the person who binged on dried fruit.

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References:
Alinia S, Hels O & Tetens I (2009): The potential association between fruit intake and bodyweight: a review. Obes Rev, 10(6):639 – 647.
Buettner D (2008): The Blue Zones: lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. The National Geographic Society.
Recommendations of the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Insitute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical activity and the Prevention of Cancer. 2007.
Rossouw JE (2015): The diet-heart hypothesis, obesity and diabetes. S Afr J Clin Nutr, 28(1):38-43.