Snacking: are they helping you or harming you?

Libby Limon BSc NT mBANT / Jun 2, 2016

No doubt about it, we are nation of ‘snackers’; in 2014 we spent £3.3bn on savoury snacks alone. Whether it’s potato crisps and chocolate bars or kale chips and nut butter, we all have our snack loves and habits.

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Snacking can be healthy and help with weight management, energy levels and focus, or it can do the opposite by contributing to weight gain, energy dips and poor concentration. Some healthy snacks might not be as healthy are you think, whilst some indulgences might actually be the healthier option.

We speak to VITL in-house nutritionist, Libby Limon to get the low down….

Snacks, from a nutritional perspective, can help you bridge the gap between main meals, especially if it is more than around 4 or 5 hours.  This becomes especially important if you suffer from poor blood sugar regulation, indicators of which include sugar cravings, feeling ‘hangry’, poor concentration and energy dips. Additionally, it may affect stress levels, sleep and hormone balance. Unfortunately, if you suffer from subclinical hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) you are more likely to crave sugary or carbohydrate dense snacks, which will send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster.  These snacks include everything from fizzy drinks to lattes, from crisps to popcorn, and from chocolate bars to dried fruit. This kind of carb heavy snacking, of the ‘healthy’ kind or not,  can encourage overeating and even binging type behaviour. The result is often weight gain, energy dips and poor focus.

It is important that we use snacking to help regulate blood sugar balance as this is what will will help you manage weight, whilst also improving focus and energy levels. Adding protein, healthy fats and fibre to carbohydrates will have the desired effect of slowly releasing the energy from the snacks into the bloodstream to make you feel fuller for longer. Adding nuts, seeds or dried pulses and beans is an easy way to add these elements to your snack.

Whilst some people crave sweet snacks, others crave salty. A high salt diet is associated with high blood pressure, so excessive sodium consumption is not advisable. The question is, why are you craving salt in the first place? Firstly, it maybe a sign of chronic dehydration. Dehydration is not just about water, it is about electrolyte salts too. If you dehydrate due to heat, exercise or illness, and you only rehydrate with water then you may lack mineral salts such as sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Tell-tail signs include constant thirst, over consumption of water, frequent peeing and tendency for constipation. If this sounds like you, look to include more electrolyte containing foods into your diet; these will be foods rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and include coconut water, celery and cucumber juices, bananas, almonds, fresh parsley tea and, of course, VITL Greens.

Secondly, salt craving can be associated with the adrenal glands and chronic stress. If this resonates with you, again it is important to have healthy blood sugar balancing snacks like the above. As well as looking at other stress reduction strategies that may include anything from yoga to meditation, relaxation techniques and better sleep health, key vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins and magnesium, and a nourishing diet.

As with any part of healthy living, being prepared makes it so, so, so much easier to make good choices.  Waiting until you are hungry with plummeting blood sugar is when you are mostly likely to reach for chocolate bar or packet of crisps. Check out www.Earlybird.com,  a snack box with a difference which is delivered straight to your door with no refined sugars or added nasties. They have even designed their snacks ‘to be a sensory experience, to distract you from the stresses of your day’! Give them a try today and get your first box for just £1 using code EB-VITL