I’ve just come back from a weekend away with the girls – no kids or husbands allowed. Just us girls, our walking boots, a LOT of food and the *ahem* odd bottle of wine.
Now, I’d say that we’re all pretty healthy people. And on the face of it, the trip wasn’t an unhealthy one. We walked 30km over the 2 days, and I cooked up a big veggie curry, lovely fruit and overnight oats, fresh n’ crispy salads and lovely local cheeses. Good food, and a lot of it.
The bit we didn’t do so well with was the snacking (yes, I’m totally ignoring the wine for the purposes of this post!). It was like our snacking demons had been unleashed out onto the world and they were destined to cause havoc and carnage – no victim spared. We ploughed our ways through bags of crisps and the chocolate cake that the owner of the house had kindly left us. We snacked on healthy things too – but ALL. THE. TIME. The snacking was relentless. We genuinely felt out of control. Had the fresh air and exercise turned us into ravenous beasts? Perhaps it was the thrill of freedom from our usual domestic scenes (or the anxiety of what was happening while we were away and what we’d be coming home to!). Or maybe we just had it in our heads that this was a girls weekend, and had decided in advance that we were going to overindulge – our treat for the weekend.
I’m sure it’s something you can relate to. Snacking can be a mindless eating trap. One minute you’re at home, a little bored, stressed or tired – the next, you’ve demolished an entire pack of biscuits and don’t remember them touching sides. Or you’ve scoffed the kid’s leftovers or found yourself in the habit of ordering a pastry as a treat every time you meet a friend for coffee. The office is another snack attack danger zone – someone’s birthday, someone’s back from holiday, the office charity bake-off, it’s Monday, it’s Friday… every day seems to be an opportunity for someone to bring in some form of sugar-coated baked temptation.
Or perhaps, you’re firmly in the no-snack camp. You’re too busy to think about food, and by the time you remember, you’re so freaking hungry you could eat a horse (and the rest of the farmyard too!).
Either way, building in a little awareness into your life around snacking, making sure that you have some easy options to hand can be the key to making sure that you don’t sell your kids in a fit of hanger (hungry-anger), and that the annual battle with your summer wardrobe is less stressful. It’s one of the things that I teach in my online 4 week Kickstart programme where I do product reviews of shop bought snacks and give out a little booklet filled with different types of snacking options, to suit all tastes and time budgets.
So what are some easy-win healthy snack options?
If you’re reaching for a snack because you’re genuinely hungry (always worth checking in with yourself first), then it’s always best to have something balanced. So often we reach for sugar/carb laden snacks, which send our blood sugar levels spiking and leave us in a slump after a while. And snacking on sugar leads to more sugar cravings, which leads to more snacking on sugar… you get the picture.
So we want to make sure that we’re getting a good balance of protein and good fats to keep us feeling fuller for longer and to help slow down the effects of any carbs that might spike our blood sugar levels.
Here are my three favourite healthy snack options:
1. Energy balls.
I’ve been making these in huge batches, sharing them with my friends and clients. They’re quick and easy to make, and you can recruit little helpers to help roll them out. Keep them in the freezer for up to a month (apparently they’ll keep for longer, but they’ve never lasted that long in my house), and in the fridge for a week or more. My ginger balls recipe is one of my all time favourites, but this cocoballs recipe is a treat for anyone with a chocolate-fetish… I like to pair a ball with a piece of fresh fruit to make sure that I’m getting one of my 5 a day at the same time.
Cocoballs (makes about 15)
The dates and maple syrup provide the sweetness here – dates have a lower glycaemic index (GI) than most dried fruit, so they don’t send your blood sugar levels spiking as much. The maple syrup is still a form of sugar, but it has more minerals and antioxidants than refined sugar, is less processed, and has a slightly lower GI. So yes, the sweetness here is better for you and these balls are waaay better than a Mars Bar, but they still have sugar in them. Try to have them only a few times a week.
1 cup medjool dates, depitted
½ cup raw unsalted almonds
½ cup raw unsalted cashew nuts
1/3 cup cacao or slightly more of cocoa (no added sugar)
¾ cup desiccated coconut
1 tbsp almond butter (100% nuts, no added sugar, salt or oil)
1-2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup (100% pure)
Combine everything in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooooooth. Roll them out (wet your hands slightly first) and lay them out flat on a tray in the fridge for 20 mins. Then transfer to a tub or stick in the freezer.
2. Grab n’ go bars
When we’re out and about and find ourselves in danger of face-planting into a bag of Maltesers, a lot of us will reach for a cereal bar as a snack. The problem with most of the shop bought varieties is that they’re packed with sugar – and sneaky ninja sugars that don’t have the actual word ‘sugar’ in them. So we *think* we’re being virtuous, but actually setting ourselves up for a blood sugar fall. These bars are a favourite on my 4 week programme. As with the energy balls, they do still have some sugar in them, so not something to merrily munch away on throughout the day, but when you need something to grab and go and pick you up from a grumpy hunger-filled slump, these beauts do the trick. Plus no baking required. Win.
Oat & chia fridge cake bars (Makes 6-8 bars)
2 cups oats
½ cup nut butter
½ cup raisins & medjool dates, chopped and destoned
¼ cup melted coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup chia seeds
Line a tray with baking paper. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spread the mix out on the baking tray and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Keep in the fridge for as long as possible before eating and store in the fridge. You can wrap these individually in some baking paper and freeze them if you like.
3. Crudites and dips
I filmed a little video on my Facebook page talking about my love for veggie sticks. When you have a few minutes in the kitchen, chop up a load of carrots, celery, peppers, radishes, cucumber, sugar snap peas – whatever floats your boat really – and store them in a tub with a little bit of water in the fridge. That way, when you find yourself staring into the fridge looking for something to munch on, there’s something on hand. I nearly always have hummus (I love the taste of the full fat organic one), cottage cheese, soft cheese or nut butter (yep, don’t knock it til you try it!) on hand to make sure that I can get a bit of protein and fats with my veg. I love dips. And I could list a gazillion different ones for you to make at home, but I can never resist a good homemade guacamole or fishy ‘pate’ (of sorts).
Homemade guac (makes 4 portions)
Guac (for short, because we like to shorten all long words these days don’t we…) doesn’t last a long time in the fridge (a few days max), but it doesn’t normally need to… and homemade beats shop-bought hands down everytime in my book.
2 small ripe avocados
¼ red onion, finely diced
1 medium tomato, diced
½ tsp garlic powder or 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped (add more to taste)
1 large bunch coriander or basil, chopped
Juice of 1 -2 limes
Black pepper and salt to taste
pumpkin seeds for sprinkling
I always feel that guacamole is a personal thing, so tweak the quantities to suit you. Mash the avo with a fork, squeeze over some lime juice to stop it browning. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve with 2 wholegrain rice cakes or your crudites
Fishy ‘pate’ (makes 2 portions)
The fishy pate is quick and easy to pull together and is a great source of protein and fats to keep you away from the biscuit tin.
1 tin of tuna in spring water or tinned pink salmon (drained) or 2 smoked mackerel fillets, flaked
1-2 tbsp cottage cheese
Squeeze of lemon juice
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp olive oil (if needed)
Chuck everything into the food processor and blitz until smooth. Or, for a more rustic version (and to save on washing up – I hate cleaning the blender), mash everything together with a fork. Serve with your crudites or 2 rice cakes.
Both of these dips, with the crudites and ricecakes can make a quick and easy healthy lunch too – just bulk up on the salad!
They may take a little bit of forward planning – but if you can get into the habit of making a few healthy options to keep in the fridge or freezer, then you’re less likely to fall into a pit of unhealthy snacks. For more ideas, inspiration and ways to build healthy habits into your life, sign up to the 4 week Kickstart programme. For only £45, you get loads of useful information, accountability to keep you on track and recipes and meal plans to make healthy eating easier. If you’re looking to ditch the diet and get oodles of energy this Summer, visit www.bit.ly/4weekkickstart for more info.