Hasn’t Melbourne been turning on the autumn weather! I hope you’ve all been able to escape the confines of home and get out for a walk or do some form of physical activity. It’s a great way to keep you motivated and stave off boredom……
When we lose routine, we can get bored and turn to food as a form of ‘entertainment.’ In my earlier blog, we discussed the benefits of a nutrient dense diet in order to maintain health and immunity. Now generally when we’re going to work or school, our day is pretty structured and most of us are also routine around meals. But have you noticed that you've been wanting to snack more now that we're all spending a lot more time at home? Why is this??
According to clinical psychologist Christine James, many of us have lost the daily structures and limits of going to work or school and being at home means we're closer to our fridges!
"There aren't as many opportunities to distract us or keep us busy and so boredom and loneliness are real problems. Plus many have lost their jobs and are worrying about finances and health which can lead to comfort eating."
I'm not sure about the rest of you but I've been in the kitchen more than ever during isolation! I'm trying to make healthier choices by baking my own treats rather than resorting to pre-packaged goodies. I mentioned that eating pre-packaged foods should be limited or completely avoided. Whilst they make us feel good - eating sugary, fatty and high carb foods can stimulate endorphins and serotonin (our feel good hormones), they often lack any ‘substance’ and provide no nutritional benefit at all.
On a cellular level, these foods are metabolised rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels and a quick burst of energy. But like anything, what goes up must come down! After the initial energy burst, our blood sugar levels drop just as rapidly leaving us standing in the pantry searching for another snack all over again! I'm sure you see the problem here......Snacking all day (especially on highly processed, high carb, sugary foods) causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, moods to alter and energy levels to oscillate.
Throughout the day, the goal should be to keep your blood sugar stable and avoid those drastic spikes and dips that will leave you feeling starving and sluggish. So how can you do that?
Low carb and high fibre snacks have consistently demonstrated a more favourable effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than high carb snacks. By adding protein also (this macronutrient keeps us feeling full for longer) many studies show a much more consistent blood sugar level throughout the day. Here’s some tips:
In general, its best to eat snacks that provide about 200 calories and at least 10 grams of protein to help keep you full until your next meal
If you’re pretty active, you may need 2-3 snacks per day. If you’re more sedentary you may need none or one.
When you’re out doing errands, keep some portable snacks with you such as fruit and nuts.
Avoid highly processed, high sugar snacks that give you a brief jolt of energy but make you feel hungry and hour later.
Some healthy snacks include vegetable sticks, nuts and seeds (we should be eating around 30g of nuts per day – about a small handful), cottage cheese with fruit or smoothies packed with your favourite fruit and vegetables.
When we talk about healthy eating, we don't focus on one type of food or one type of nutrient. Healthy eating relies on a combination of foods, chosen regularly over time. These foods are naturally low in saturated fat, salt and added sugar. They should be rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats. So how does your diet stack up?
According to data, 96 per cent of Australians say they regularly consume snack foods. The most popular snack was fruit (64%) followed by chocolate (62%) and then cheese (54%). The most common reason for snacking was to satisfy hunger between meals.
The research also highlighted that Aussies propensity to snack was perpetuated by food marketing and advertising. We are a lot more inclined to buy snack food when it’s on sale; in fact 45% of us do so! Do you get tempted by the cleverly placed supermarket specials?
Alarmingly, what the data did show was that many Aussies are skipping meals and choosing a snack instead. 38% of 'snackers' skip breakfast but a whopping 46% skip lunch in favour of a snack! In doing so, we are missing out on vital nutrients that we would normally get through eating three meals a day. We are also then getting too many things we don't need (such as salt, sugar and saturated fats) in snack foods. Are you getting a wide variety of nutrients from all the food groups in your diet?
During isolation, The Heart Foundation has some great ideas about how to have a nutrient dense diet: (source https://www.thesenior.com.au/story/6702723/five-hearty-eating-tips-for-home-isolation/)
Plan your meals ahead and shop with a list to ensure you're getting the right ingredients for a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to minimise food wastage and cost.
Frozen veggies can be just as healthy as fresh options. Canned vegetables, beans or fruit have an extra-long shelf life, so they are perfect for your pantry. When choosing canned vegetables and legumes (like beans or lentils), buy "no added salt", "low-salt" or "reduced-salt" versions and choose fruit canned in juice rather than syrup.
Heart healthy proteins like fish or seafood are an excellent source of omega-3s, which our bodies need but cannot produce. If you can't get fresh fish, choose canned salmon or tuna in spring water rather than salty brine. Or you can opt for lean chicken or eggs, but if choosing red meat, make sure it is lean and limit to one to three meals a week.
Avoid snacking by establishing a mealtime routine to keep work and play separate. If you do snack, go for a handful of unsalted nuts, a cup of veggie sticks or a small plate of cut up fruit to curb that afternoon craving. Opt for this instead of unhealthy foods like chips, biscuits, chocolate or flavoured sugary drinks. While these unhealthy snacks can be an occasional treat, try to avoid stocking them in your pantry in the first place.
Finally, staying at home for long periods of time is the perfect opportunity to either learn to cook or brush up on your skills.
Ok, I hope you enjoyed this week’s nutrition tips. I felt it was quite topical to discuss snacking during this ‘opportunistic’ time at home. As always, if you want any further advice, don’t hesitate to contact me! Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
Workout 1: Strength workout
Workout 2: Cardio and Strength
More about Kelly Nicholas
Kelly Nicholas holds a Health Science Degree in Paramedicine and currently works as a Paramedic for Ambulance Victoria. Kelly is also a qualified personal trainer with a Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science and has completed a specialisation in nutrition for exercise professionals. Kelly and her business partner Louise Moss, run Change it up Training - a small business specialising in training and motivating others to be the best/healthiest version of themselves.