Are snacks good or bad for you?

Digestive Health, Nutrition

Healthy nutritious snack

Before I started studying nutrition back in 2007 I didn’t think twice about the type of snack I ate.
Cadburys dairy milk wholenut bars, maltesers and chocolate chip cookies were some of my favourites! They were often grabbed when energy levels were low. Little did I realise that this was only compounding the situation and triggering a cascade of fluctuating hormones. A constant high and low of insulin and cortisol hormones, upsetting blood sugars, storing fat, and causing even more energy highs and lows.

Most of us know that these types of snacks are not the “healthy” choice.

So why do we grab snacks in the first place? Is it a habit? Are you getting energy dips during the day? Is it because you are hungry? Are you feeling emotional (bored, stressed, angry, sad) Is it because they’re so easily available?

Snacks are good if you choose the right ones.  They can…

  • Give you a boost of energy if several hours pass between meals and blood glucose levels drop. When this happens, you might feel lightheaded, dizzy, or feel a dip in energy levels.
  • Curb your appetite to prevent overeating at the next meal.
  • Provide extra nutrients when choosing healthier snacks like fruit and nuts.
  • Help you to reach your daily fibre needs and plant points – 30g a day and 30 plants a week. A plant rich diet means a more diverse microbiome and better health.

A few studies suggest that eating protein-rich, high fibre snacks can help you lose weight¹ ²

On the other hand, a study in lean women showed that having a 190-calorie snack at 11:00 p.m. reduced the amount of fat they burned significantly more than eating the same snack at 10:00 a.m.³

In my clinical practice whether to snack or not very much depends on the person.  Everyone is different so it’s important to figure out what works best for you. Also, if you eat the right amount of protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrates in your 3 meals a day then you may often not need a snack.

Go for low carb, high fibre, satisfying snacks

Snacks with lower carbs, higher fibre are the best for balancing your bloods sugar and insulin levels.
Here are some favourites and I’ve included some reasons why they are so beneficial for gut health.

  • Blueberries with handful of walnuts
  • Sliced pear and brie cheese
  • Fruit is a great option for prebiotic fibre. The nondigestible carbohydrates in fruit pass through the digestive system intact and act as food for healthy bacteria in the gut. Your gut bacteria break down fiber and produce beneficial metabolites that strengthen your immune system, and regulate digestion. Add pears or kiwis to your daily diet if you suffer from constipation!
  • Hummus with cucumber sticks
    High-fibre foods help to reduce your risk of colon cancer, haemorrhoids, constipation, and diarrhoea.
  • Sliced apple with nut butter
  • Handful of almonds with two squares of 70% or more dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that can help dampen any gut inflammation
  • Full fat Greek yoghurt x 2 tablespoons with tablespoon of hemp seeds and handful of berries

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and probiotics to support your digestion. Look for Greek yogurt that contains “live active cultures” and is full fat as this helps you to stay fuller for longer.

Snacking tips

  • Activity levels. Your number of snacks varies based on your activity level and meal size. If you are very active, you may prefer 2–3 snacks per day, while a more sedentary person may do best with 1 or no snacks.
  • Portability. Keep a portable snack in an airtight container with you when you are out and about in case hunger strikes. e.g. handful of nuts, homemade energy balls
  • Snacks to avoid. Processed, high-sugar snacks and even those that say low sugar and are full of artificial sugars may give you a brief jolt of energy, but you will probably feel hungrier an hour or two later. They can also cause inflammation and reduce the diversity of your gut microbiome.
  • Drink more water! This can help to curb the snacking. Think of water as a snack!

If you are interested in a one-of-a-kind plan to upgrade your health, then check out my 90 Day Gut Restore Programme. It’s a highly personalised 1-2-1 experience, guided by your needs and goals.