Snacking with Purpose
Food cravings and true hunger are different things. Cravings usually hit us fast, and are demanding and specific in their requests (e.g., “I want that [specific] chocolate bar right now!”). Hunger is more gradual, and less rigid in its wants.
So when it comes to snacks, what happens to you when Craving comes banging at your door? Do you launch for the sweet drawer? Do you crave salt and fat? Are you looking for an energy boost? Do your cravings change from day to day? Are you simply eating out of habit?
Regardless of your reason for snacking, there is always a way to layer in healthy: ways to simultaneously satisfy short-term wants and optimize longer-term health goals.
Below are a few snack attack scenarios with snack options which add some healthy into your snacks, and over time, help set you up for better eating patterns.
Types of Cravings
The Sweet Tooth
Analysis: This could be many things including a) emotional eating, b) a bad set up from your last meal which has you on sugar and stress hormone rollercoasters, c) a habit (e.g., “the 3pm muffin”).
Tips: Add nuts and seeds to your snacks. They blend well into sweet foods and contain protein, fibre andgood fats, which when combined, make you feel satisfied sooner and for longer. Overall, these wonder kernels attenuate blood sugar, appetite, and energy drops. Research is clear that a diet that includes nuts and seeds help us to balance appetite, as well as maintain (and even lose) weight.
- Nut pudding with berries: This is my own concoction which came about in my quest to make nut milk. In the end, I just couldn’t throw away all of that valuable fibre and protein meal, so I added some berries, some honey, and came up with a delicious nut pudding recipe! Here it is:
In a blender cup, combine 1 cup of filtered water with 1 cup of any blend of raw nuts or seeds (I use Brazil nuts, cashews and hemp hearts). If you have time, soak for a few hours. Add ½ cup berries, some honey, and blend! This will last you for two or three snacks. This snack keeps me alert and satisfied for hours, and is one of my favourites quick breakfast meals.
- Cacao milk: This is a much healthier version of chocolate milk, and it tastes great! Cacao powder comes from the cacao bean which is actually the seed of the cacao pod. Cacao powder is full of protein, fibre and minerals, and is a veritable superfood. Do not confuse it with cocoa powder, which is the processed form of cacao powder.In a blender, combine any milk of your choice (e.g., cow, goat, almond), add 1 tbsp. raw cacao per cup, and drizzle in some honey. Blend. Sometimes I add some New Zealand whey protein powder or hydrolyzed collagen (tasteless, and great for my bones, arteries and skin!).
The “I don’t know what I feel like” Craving
Analysis: This may mean that you are not actually hungry, or that your body is craving nutrients, not necessarily calories. As I’ve said to many athletes and clients: not all meals need to be a circus for your tongue. Sometimes it’s wise to try something functional first, and then revisit the craving.
Tip: Go for a snack with high volume, high nutrients and very few calories. My favourites are various fibres and greens in a big glass of water.
- Ground flax seed in water: Ground flax seeds offer anti-cancer lignans, omega 3 fatty acids, and fibres that feed your healthy gut flora. Chia seeds are another good fibre drink option. Try 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of filtered water.
- Greens powders in water: There are so many greens’ foods out there: spirulina, chlorella, grass blends, berry blends…the list goes on. The benefit? Tens to hundreds of micronutrients, trace minerals, and other compounds that support health.
Afterward, wait 20 minutes to see if your craving has eased. If not, proceed as before. At least now, you are better nourished.
Salty Fatty Crunchy Craving
Analysis: This may be a true need for salt, but if your body is calling for fat and crunchy, then it more likely just a craving for salty fatty snacks.
Tip: You can still have salt, fat, and crunch, with some better nutrient profiles. See below.
- Toasted seaweed snacks: These snacks are crunchy, slightly salty and delicious! Seaweed is packed with over 60 different minerals. Choose ones made with unrefined oils, like extra virgin olive oil.
- Kale chips. We all know this one, but they are a great option! Get locally made products with simple ingredient lists.
- Tamari pumpkin seeds: Buy or make these yourself. Raw pumpkin seeds, tossed in some tamari, and roasted lightly in the oven. Quick, easy, delicious. You’ll want to share.
- Salad with olives and feta cheese: Why not salad for a snack? It satisfies the “crunch”, the salt and the fat. I always add a good quality extra virgin olive oil, and a drizzle of a nice balsamic (they store quite well in a desk drawer!!)
Pop or Juice Craving
Analysis: This may be thirst, or a sugar craving. The irony is, if you go for a really sugary drink, it can make you more thirsty as your body uses your own water stores to dilute sugars in the intestine for better absorption. Sugar also creates a cascade of hormonal and other metabolic events in the body which immediately increase inflammation, blood lipid levels, blood sugars, and fat gain.
Tip: Go for watery foods. The water will address potential dehydration, and will add volume to the gut which in turn affects stretch receptors associated with satiety signals.
- A big bowl of melon: Cube it, slice it, or even blend it! I like cold or frozen watermelon blended with fresh basil (like a slushy). Any way you cut it, melon is less than 50 calories per cup, is mostly water. It may be just the thing to take away this particular craving.
- Lemon in water: Simple, yet satisfying. Have a glass of this first before reaching for the sugary stuff.
- Kombucha: If you are a soda pop fan, this may be the time to try this fizzy tea-based drink. It has the texture of pop, with less than half the sugars, and with a fizz created by good bacteria – that’s right…probiotics. Try it at least two times to get used to it, and try not to overdo it once you get hooked. Sugar is still sugar.
These are ones I have migrated toward, but as always, choose what resonates for you, or make them your own in your own way.