When I hear people talking about snacking it always seems to be with an unhealthy connotation. This shouldn’t be the case. If you are eating the right foods then snacking can be very healthy and should be encouraged. For the busy office worker, snacks can help you get through the long mornings until lunch or get you over the final furlong in the afternoon before dinner time.
If you want to be healthy, it’s really important to watch what snacks you’re eating. Keep chocolates, crisps and cakes to a weekly treat, try not to make them a daily habit. If they’re already a habit then start slowly substituting them with healthier choices. Every morning before hitting the office, I make sure I’ve got plenty of fruit and nuts in my bag to get me through the day. For me, packing these snacks in my bag is just as important as my laptop!
It’s so easy to pick up a great mix of fruits and nuts at your local supermarket. Fruits are low in calories and fat and are a source of vitamins, fibre and simple sugars. They’re also a great anti-oxidant. I try to buy a mix of different fruits each week to keep at home then choose a selection of them to bring to work each morning. Stock up with some oranges, apples, grapes, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, papayas and kiwis for starters and you won’t go too far wrong. Like anything though, don’t overdo it on one particular fruit each day. Mix things up!
If you’re in an office, why not suggest to your boss that your company get fresh fruit delivered each day? This is a great way for companies to promote healthy lifestyle choices for their employees. If you’re in the Dublin area, get on to The Fruit People (www.thefruitpeople.ie). They specialise in delivering boxes of fruit to workplaces around the city.
As well as eating fruit each day I’ll always make sure I have nuts to snack on too. Nuts are underrated as a nutritious food. They’re packed with protein, fibre, essential fats and lots of other good stuff. They have a bit of a bad reputation in terms of their calorie count and it’s true that they are high in fat, but a certain amount of fat is necessary in your diet and nuts provide a healthy source of fat if taken in moderation. Plus they are bursting with other great health benefits.
So should you be eating nuts coated in chocolate, sugar glaze or ready salted? Are you nuts? I’m talking about simple nuts with nothing added, not even salt. Nuts like walnuts (omega-3 fatty acids), almonds (fibre), cashews (iron & zinc), pecans (heart healthy anti-oxidant), brazil nuts (selenium) and pistachios (lowest calorie nut and possibly the tastiest!). This Mixed Nuts packet from Lidl has a mix of most of the above:
How much and when you snack depends on the time of your main meals and how many meals a day you’re eating. It always seemed to me that the traditional diet in Ireland revolved around three huge meals a day and maybe an unhealthy snack or two in between, and that’s fine if that allows you to maintain or improve your health. Whatever works for you is what’s important.
Personally I try to eat 4 to 5 smaller portion meals a day. It can be challenging to have so many meals in a day while working in an office though so this is where the snacks come in. If you have a canteen or a kitchen area at your office then don’t let it go to waste. Stock up the fridge with quick fix snack solutions like wholegrain breads or pitas, some hummus, low fat cottage cheese, tomatoes, cucumber etc. Combine these snacks with fruits and nuts and you’ll have no trouble keeping the hunger pangs at bay.
So how often should you be eating? Well its normal (and healthy) to be hungry every 2 to 3 hours so listen to what your body is telling you. Have some healthy snack options close at hand to feed your craving and step away from the evil vending machine trying to tempt you with a chocolate fix or a sugar rush.
To summarise, whatever makes you feel happy and healthy is what's most important. There's nothing wrong with a treat every now and then. Why not be prepared for your day at the office though by having healthy snacks within reach when you feel hungry. This makes it so much easier to choose a healthy option and to ignore the call of the vending machine!