Snack Attack: All you need to know about snacking

By Lavanya

Jan 16, 20246 mins read

Snack Attack: All you need to know about snacking

Whenever I have a chat with my nutrition coach, I always end up admitting sheepishly that I had yet another 'snaccident'. The time of day I dread is the evening tea time, for that is when I go off rails, and go foraging for snack foods, like Early Man rooting in the bush for something edible to eat. The sensible part of my brain knows eating well all day and then giving the Very Hungry Caterpillar a run for its money at 4 PM is not really helping, but I think the sugar and salt hogtie my brain into submission. 


The point of this post is really to help break this habit, hoping there are similarly afflicted out there, and together, seeing how we can tighten up this gap in our nutrition wagon and not fall for repeated snack attacks!


Did you know that snackers had a type? I didn't, till recently! We snackers fall into seven different categories, based on how spectacularly we lose control. These are: Habitual. Spontaneous. Stressed. Compulsive. Emotional. Indifferent. Serial.


The last one makes us sound rather like someone soon to be profiled on an episode of Criminal Minds, doesn’t it?! Anyway, whichever ‘type of snacker’ you may label yourself as it all comes down to your mindset. We all know that snacking on junk food is “bad”. Yet it is now so prolific, we’ve reached a level of complete insensitivity to what we are actually snacking on and how much of it is actually going in.


Interestingly, the previous generations weren't as susceptible to this mindless eating habit we have all but embraced into our true selves. 


How / when did our grandparents and parents start snacking?

Snack

Not to say they didn't ever tuck into a murukku or bajji with their evening coffee, it was more a matter of economics and logistics. Food costs money and these were all 'treats', only to be afforded during special occasions/festival days, etc. What's more, they were very often made at home, from scratch. No Grand Sweets and Shree Mithai at every corner, after all!


Logistically, it would have been hard to overdo snacking back in the day because of the amount of resources and time it took to produce the snack and then have to share it amongst everyone. The money, time, and effort it took to produce these foods meant that these were strictly for special occasions only, not for T.G.I.F reasons! 


But, with time and the explosion of the processed foods industry, this changed into something else.


Why did we start snacking?

Snack
  • Ignoring regular meals and meal times
  • Attempting to fill a gap left from eating too much starch and fat, leaving us malnourished and constantly exhausted
  • Easy availability of junk food and fast food
  • Constant stressful personal/professional situations
  • To ‘help’ ourselves deal with any and every type of emotion we experience
  • To feel better
  • Boredom
  • To socialize
  • As a 'treat' 

From a simple tea-time short eats or a festival day special food, snacking has morphed into this monster that we are currently wrestling to bring back under control. So much so that stepping away from these foods when we certainly don't need the nourishment is considered as 'deprivation'. 


Don't believe me? At the next party you are at, say no repeatedly to any and all finger foods that are paraded in front of you by the wait staff. After the third pass, you will be fielding inquiries about your health or if you are on a diet, to be finished with the triumphant 'just loosen up and live a little'. 


But you know it, and I know it, it isn't doing you and your health any favors! 


Does this mean snacking is banned forever?

No. This isn’t to say that life should be lived without ever eating snacks. No one is being sent to the Snack Purgatory, thrown to the wolves if they so much so as sniff a samosa. We are not masochists! (Plus we love our masala chai and onion pakoda!) 


The point we are trying to make is that - we have been overdoing it. The junk food habit. To such an extent, that we have come up with labels for the different types of snackers that we are. We have forgotten that they are meant to be an occasional treat. And sweet treats are just that - treats! They do not a meal make! 


Eating endless processed foods and drinking high caloric beverages to celebrate the end of yet another work week is a habit that has crept on gradually and is now such a mainstay, that not partaking in it is seen as a sign of being unsocial. 


So, this is our chance to turn our lifestyle around and unpin the snacking habit that has been holding each one of us back thus far. Whether it be fried junk or salted nuts, fried sweets, fruit juice or alcohol, remind yourself that there is a limit on anything you consider a snack. Listen to feelings of hunger - there is no need to fear it and constantly stuff oneself with food. You can literally make your next meal appear in front of you, in as little as an hour these days… no foraging required!  


What we are snacking on and how much of it we are eating really does matter. There is no such thing as a “safe snack”. Just because something is "good for us" doesn't mean that chugging it down endlessly is a top decision. Serving size really does matter and overdoing any snack or food, regardless of the health claims bolstering it, will lead to negative health consequences.


Case in point: Those of us that never went overboard with junk, ate mindfully, and followed an otherwise active or moderately active lifestyle, remain ‘in shape’. Those of us that overdid snacks regularly, celebrated with food every chance we got, accompanied by either an active or mostly sedentary lifestyle, have found ourselves ‘out of shape’.


How to snack without overdoing it and still stay fit?

Snack like our grandparents did. Simple!  


Here are some simple steps you can take:


  • Eat unhealthy snacks like salty snacks and soft drinks only on occasion.  
  • Listen to hunger cues and don't fear hunger. Remember: you don't need to go fell an ox the next time hunger pangs strike. You just need to open your fridge/pantry door.
  • Mindful snacking - Be mindful of what you eat. Know what you are eating and how much.. 
  • Small meals - beware of portion sizes. A snack should never be more than 250-300 calories worth. 
  • Healthy snacking - cheese cubes, a lovely piece of fruit, a pot of plain Greek yogurt etc are all excellent snack options
  • Drink water. A lot of time, we skip hydrating ourselves, misread the cues and reach for the nearest bag of chips. 
  • Don't stock up on easy, unhealthy foods next time you go shopping. If they are tempting you from your pantry, chances are you would buckle, sooner than later. 
  • Reduced activity and excess calories are the deadly combo that leads to a host of issues like weight gain, cardiovascular disease, immune system misfiring, and a host of other health problems. Don't get locked into this spiral! 

Give this a try, for a week…  then for a month… and then some, and you will realize that snacking never needed to be part of your lifestyle to begin with.


What is the right snack?

Now that we have established the ground rules, let's see what we can actually snack on. What are the dietary guidelines we must follow whilst deciding on what to snack on? 


Make healthy choices

Any food, be it protein, carbs or fats consumed in excess of your body’s nutritional needs will be deposited and stored as fat in the body. Most snacks, which typically contain enormous amounts of starch and fat will end up as fat deposits in the body when overeaten. 


Whenever you do snack, do so mindfully. Remember never to fill yourself with just snacks (instead of filling yourself with vegetables and protein), and opt for the foods that stack higher nutrient-wise.


Choose nutrient-dense snacks

Snacking needn't necessarily mean only potato chips and fizzy drinks. There are several sensible snack options we can make that will keep us going till the next proper meal time without exciting our blood sugar levels unnecessarily. Think whole foods. 


Protein foods such as hard-boiled eggs, cheese cubes, grilled paneer/tofu, greek yogurt etc, are examples of filling and healthy snacks. Other snack ideas include unsalted nuts or fresh vegetables such as baby carrots and cucumber batons with hummus. These will not only perk your low energy levels up but will also excite your taste buds a lot more than a salt and sugar overdose! 


Beware of the frequency of snacking

Just as important as what you eat, is how often you eat. Like we said before, there's no such thing called as "safe snacks". Just because nuts are good for us, we cannot eat them by the boatload and not pay the price. 


Mindless grazing, ie, popping a chip here, glugging a can of fizz there, stealing a chunk of cake from your spouse's plate before moving on to a beer with the boys all add up. Instead, be present. Ditch high-carb snacks, go for protein-rich options, fix yourself a plate, and just focus on that. You might make time for three square meals daily but if you are not conscious of how frequently you dip into your favorite snack, you will be in a world of trouble. 


What are the simple steps you can take to counteract years of snaccidents?

Active lifestyle - we are The Quad and as such, big proponents of the healthy lifestyle. What's this got to do with your snack, you ask? Well, healthy lifestyle and unhealthy snacks do not go well together. If you have all your ducks in a row, you are not going to mess it up by binge-eating greasy nachos and kebabs come every Friday night, are you? Nope! 


Encourage healthy habits - a walk after every meal will not only get you off the sofa, it will also have a great impact on your mental health. Rope in your spouse and children, make family walks/swimming / cycling a regular habit and it will have such a massive impact on the overall health of your family.


Opt for healthier snacks - It just comes down to making the right choices on what and how much. Below are foods that we commonly snack on. This is how they stack up:


Follow these simple steps and you will pretty soon be having your cake and eating it too! (See what I did there? ;) )


Have an uncontrolled snack habit? Need help to ditch it and adopt good, healthy eating habits that will serve you for life? Our nutrition coaches will be thrilled to show you the best way to adopt a healthy lifestyle, without feeling deprived. Just get in touch with us!