Healthy ways to quell those cravings
Last Updated April 26, 2007
By Michelle Gelok
Do you have hunger pangs hours before lunch, or feel your energy level lagging by mid-afternoon? If you think your best bet is to avoid a snack and wait until lunch or dinner to avoid spoiling your appetite, think again.
Snacks can fit into a healthy diet and even have some benefits too. A snack chosen with variety, moderation and balance in mind can provide a much-needed boost of energy throughout the day and be a source of nutrients that may be lacking in your diet and can also prevent overeating at mealtime.
However, choosing what and when to eat takes some careful consideration. Here are some healthy tips to help stave off the hunger pangs and keep energy levels up throughout the day:
A winning combination
If your idea of snacking is grabbing a couple of cookies or a chocolate bar, you may be doing more harm than good. Foods high in sugar cause big swings in blood sugar levels, which leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
The optimal combination for a snack is a source of protein combined with a carbohydrate. The carbohydrate will provide a quick source of energy, while the protein has staying power that will make you feel full for longer.
This combination will result in a steady rise and fall in blood sugar levels. Examples of protein and carbohydrate combinations include:
- A small can of water-packed tuna and a few whole-grain crackers.
- A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit.
- Low fat yogurt and fresh fruit.
- Vegetables and hummus.
Mix it up
Aside from providing a source of energy, think of a snack as another way to meet all of your daily requirements from Canada's Food Guide and add nutrients to your diet that may be lacking at meals.
Try to include at least two of the four food groups in a snack. Here's a rundown on what each food group has to offer:Vegetables and fruit:
Vegetables and fruit are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre and provide a feeling of fullness without any fat and very few calories. Choose brightly coloured fruit and vegetables for the most nutrients.Grain products:
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that provide energy and a boost of fibre. They also have a low glycemic index, which means they provide a gradual increase in blood sugar levels, and therefore provide some staying power. Choose products such as air-popped popcorn, low-fat whole grain crackers, or whole grain cereal.
|Snack choice||Calories||Grams of fat|
|1 medium size piece of fruit (such as orange, pear or apple)||50-75||0.2|
|2 cups air popped light popcorn (trans-fat free)||52||1|
|7 walnut halves with 4 dried apricots||124||10|
|1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple||125||1.5|
|175 grams (3/4 cup) low fat yogurt with 1/2 cup blueberries||154||3|
|1 small (85 g) can water-packed tuna with 4 whole wheat crackers||155||4|
|1/2 cup mixed vegetables with 2 tbsp hummus||171||3.5|
|1 sliced apple with 1 tbsp almond butter||175||9.7|
|Homemade smoothie made with 1 cup skim milk (or low fat soy beverage), 1 banana and 1/4 cup strawberries||192||1|
Dairy products such as milk or yogurt and alternatives, such as fortified soymilk, are a good source of calcium and protein. Choose low-fat dairy products or fortified soymilk for the most vitamins and minerals and the least amount of fat.Meat and alternatives:
Meat and alternatives provide protein, which makes you feel full for a long period of time. Choose protein sources that contain healthy fats, such as nuts (monounsaturated fat), or fish, such as water-packed tuna (omega-3 fatty acids).
Time it right
To maximize your energy levels, aim to eat every three hours, which means having a light snack between meals if you are hungry. Eating a small, healthy snack can actually prevent overindulging at mealtime by keeping you from reaching for second helpings. By spacing out snacks throughout the day, you may actually consume fewer calories in the day.
Snacks are meant to hold you over until a meal, not replace a meal. As a general guideline, snacks should provide between 100 and 200 calories, just enough to get rid of the hunger pangs and prevent you from overeating at your next meal.
There is an increasing variety of individually packaged snack foods available on grocery store shelves these days, many of which are healthy alternatives to chips and cookies. But be mindful of portion sizes and always read the label on prepackaged snack foods, since some may actually contain two servings per package.
The bottom line
Choosing healthy snacks throughout the day can help maintain energy levels, be a source of nutrients and prevent overeating at mealtime. The rule of thumb: Make healthy snacking easy. Incorporate it into your day by keeping healthy snack foods available, whether in the kitchen, in your backpack or at the office.
Here's a recipe for a snack that is high in fibre and protein. It travels well and can be made with your favourite combination of spices.
Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Recipe developed by Michelle Gelok for CBC
- 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- Juice of 1/2 of a lime
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
In a mixing bowl, combine chickpeas, oil, cayenne pepper, cumin seeds, turmeric, limejuice, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
Spread mixture on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning every 20 minutes, until chickpeas are golden brown and crunchy.
Cool and serve.
Serves four to five people. Per serving (1/4 cup): 192 calories, 4 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 7 grams of protein, 33 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fibre.
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