We often put a lot of our dietary focus on breakfast, lunch and dinner, but what we eat between meals can be just as important for helping us achieve our health goals — whether that’s to lose weight, gain muscle or up your energy levels.
It’s easy for extra calories to sneak in at snack time — all it takes is , one extra coffee meeting or a mad 3pm sugar craving for your diet to go slightly off-kilter.
“Snacks should ideally contain about 100-200 calories, depending on your energy needs,” accredited practising dietitian Lauren McGuckin told ninemsn COACH.
“They should provide a decent hit of nutrients and keep you satisfied between meals.”
Fruit and veggies are a good snack base to help you reach your recommended quotas.
We’re all supposed to try get two serves of fruit and five serves of veggies a day, and given a is half a cup of cooked vegetables or a cup of leafy salad greens, we really need to use our snack times as an opportunity to add some of those in.
Fruit naturally contains more sugar, and therefore calories, than vegetables, so if weight loss is your goal, then sticking to the recommended two pieces per day is a good idea.
If you add berries to your muesli or smoothie and have some stewed apples for dessert after dinner, then you’ll have used up your fruit quota for the day and will have to turn to veggies and other snack foods for morning and afternoon tea.
“Fruit and veggies are pretty darn good [snacks], however they may not be enough to bridge the gap and keep you happy and full between your meals,” says McGuckin, who is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
“They do lack protein, good fats and other nutrients, which have additional nutrients and benefits.”
If muscle gain is your goal, you will need to increase your overall calorie intake (not just your protein intake), so you can get away with another piece of fruit in your day, plus ample veggies and protein.
McGuckin recommends teaming your fruit and veggie snacks up with a protein source to keep you fuller for longer.
You can simply alter how much protein you’re having depending on whether you want to lose weight (have less) or gain muscle (have more).
“Protein-based snacks are great for muscle building and recovery, they’re also great for weight loss if you find it hard to reduce portions at meals or stave away the cravings,” McGuckin explains.
“Protein also provides longer-sustained energy as they take longer for the body to digest. Think nuts, boiled eggs, cheese or yoghurt.”
To rev up your energy…
If you’ve got a deadline to meet, a workout to get through or a jam-packed social calendar, the right snack can help power your body and mind.
In such instances, McGuckin suggests you might go for a rich carbohydrate source, such as grain crackers or a with a good dose of protein.
“Carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruit or grainy crackers, provide a great source of energy for concentration or a session at the gym,” she explains.
“Vita-Weats are a great quality carbohydrate-based choice. Two of these with a 25g slice of cheese, a tablespoon of 100 percent nut butter, or a small tin of tuna or salmon would be a great mid-meal snack, particularly in the more active part of the day where you’re more likely to use the carbohydrate energy.”
Otherwise dip your banana in natural yoghurt for plenty of protein and calcium for strong muscles and bones.
“Other good options are apple slices with low fat cheese or trail mix,” McGuckin says.
“You could even make a vegetable smoothie with plenty of greens, such as spinach, kale, cucumber, broccoli, one small banana or a small apple, two generous spoons of natural or plain Greek yoghurt and a tablespoon of chia seeds or LSA.”