The joy of snacking can be riddled with conflicting so-called rules. Here are all the common myths debunked…
Let’s be honest. When it comes to snacks, we’ve had more mixed messages than we’ve had hot meals.
And speaking of meals, for example, will snacks wreck your ability to enjoy one ever again or do they complement them? It depends who you ask.
To get to the bottom of the fake news around snacking, we asked dietitian Juliette Kellow to debunk the myths that have been deceiving you.
1. Snacking is unhealthy
Snacking is a word that seems to come laden with negative connotations, conjuring up images of late-night fridge raids and excessive crisp consumption.
If you’re mindful of what you’re snacking on though, those associations are a myth.
“The concept of snacking itself isn’t unhealthy,” insists Kellow. “It’s what you choose to snack on that determines this. Snacks loaded with saturated fat, added sugars and/or salt, while at the same time being low in nutrients, aren’t the healthiest of options.
“But if you choose wisely, snacking can actually give you a nutrient boost, and all the benefits that come from this. Nutrient-rich snacks include fruit, vegetable crudités and a handful of nuts, such as almonds – that’s about 28g or 23 almonds.”
2. Preparing a healthy snack takes ages
Despite the meal prep hashtags circulating Instagram and the stark warnings about anything ‘ready-made’, eating healthily isn’t necessarily a mammoth task.
“You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen in order to create healthy snacks,” says Kellow.
“In fact, many nutrient-dense snacks are completely prep-free and ready to eat. For example, picking up a piece of fresh fruit or tucking into a small box of raisins or a handful of almonds takes no more time than it does to open a bar of chocolate.”
3. Snacking spoils your appetite
If your mum’s voice still rings in your ear when it comes to snacking ruining your appetite, it turns out she’s only half right. Soz, mum.
“Snacking continuously throughout the day, or grazing, can mean we rarely feel truly hungry,” Kellow explains.
“But snacking sensibly during the day shouldn’t ruin our appetite for a meal. In fact, having a sensible snack may actually help give us better control over the amount we eat at our next meal and prevent overeating.
“Why? Because having a healthy snack means we’re less likely to be starving when we sit down to eat a meal. This means we’re more likely to eat slowly and recognise the signs when we’re starting to get full, so that we can stop eating.”
4. Snacking on foods with fat is bad for you
All fats aren’t created equal when it comes to food.
“We all need some fat in our diet,” says Kellow.
“Fat provides us with energy, protects our organs and keeps us warm. It also helps the body absorb certain nutrients and is packed with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as essential fats that we can’t make (which means they have to be supplied by the food we eat).
“Fortunately, several foods that are naturally rich in unsaturated fats, such as nuts, oily fish and avocados, make great snack choices. For a fuss-free, prep-free snack, you can’t go wrong with a handful of almonds.
“As well as being a natural source of protein, high in fibre, and containing a wide range of nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin E and many B vitamins, almonds are high in monounsaturated fats.
“Which is great news, because replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. If you’re looking for inspiration on what you can do with almonds, head to California Almonds.”
5. You shouldn’t snack before exercise
The eternal exercise dilemma is whether or not to go hungry and risk rumbling your way through yoga, or eat and potentially get a stitch so bad it stops you in your tracks.
“It’s probably best not to snack immediately before starting a workout because your body will be busy trying to digest what you’ve eaten,” explains Kellow.
“But having a healthy snack an hour or two before you exercise can be a good idea, especially if it’s been a long time since you ate your last main meal. Choosing a snack that contains carbohydrate will provide a slow release of energy, which can help you perform at your best.
“Good choices include a banana or a pot of low-fat yoghurt. Once you’ve finished your workout, if you’re not going to be having a main meal for several hours, it’s best to have a snack within 30 minutes of exercising.”
6. You shouldn’t snack at night
For some reason, nighttime is always the most seductive when it comes to snacking.
Unfortunately, it also seems to be the time we’re told to stay away from the fridge. The truth?
“It’s never a good idea to eat a large amount of food immediately before going to bed, but there’s also no good evidence to suggest you can’t enjoy a healthy snack during the evening,” Kellow says.
“In fact, going to bed hungry will probably make it harder for you to sleep. As well as having a rumbling tummy, low blood sugar levels release a hormone called glucagon, which has a similar effect to adrenaline, leaving you feeling alert.
“Good snacks for the evening should combine both carbs and protein, such as a couple of oatcakes with almond butter or a small bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk.”
Embrace straight-forward snacking with Californian almonds and head to California Almonds.