Snacking has poor PR. We are constantly being told to stop it, stick with three healthy meals per day. For some, looking after our teeth, gut, muscles and mind is all about eating lean and clean. But I think snacking rocks. It’s awesome. Not only does it help bridge the gap between meals (I can’t be the only one who, even when I go for porridge, never makes it to lunch without feeling peckish at about 11am?!). So here goes with a post to big up the snack – snacking for pros is my attempt to encourage you to eat slightly less at meal times and leave room for deliciousness in-between!
Snacking and smiling on the Lyke Wake Walk. Photo by Allysse.
Okay I’m not really here to tell you to eat less at mealtimes in favour of snacking. But I do think snacks have a big part to play in our nutrition, and our enjoyment of food. Whether you eat because you enjoy it or are totally in the “food is fuel” mindset, there is a place for snacking. Let’s embrace it! It doesn’t have to unhealthy – there are plenty of decent options out there that can help us with our daily intake of fruit, veg, protein, and everything else. But it doesn’t have to be completely healthy either – I mean, who doesn’t like a chocolate bar, some peanut butter cups, a big handful of salted peanuts, or some sugary popcorn?
Snacking for Pros
I’m coming at this post from two angles. The first is when I’m sat at my desk and get those 11am and 3pm/4pm cravings. You know, the desire for something sweet that comes at the same time every day, and the boredom hunger that cannot be ignored or you end up snapping at everyone around you. The second is for when I’m out and about all day, whether that be a day hike or a day of sightseeing – carrying snacks in your bag is both important for keeping your energy levels up but also is great at saving you from overpriced food in coffee shops. Hopefully you’ll see that the ideas in this post are good for both scenarios – I’m talking snacking on the move, snacking when you’re not at home and don’t have access to your fridge, snacking when you want to eat things you have prepared in advance and with you rather than spending money in coffee shops or cafes or corner shops.
Fruit and Veg
Raw and fresh fruit and vegetables are perfect for snacking. Yes I know fruit is high in sugar but a handful of strawberries or some fresh mango is easily better for you than a bag of Haribo or some Jelly Babies (although I’m definitely not suggesting you should give up your Jelly Baby addiction – everyone needs a bag of those once in a while!). I tend to go for fruit and veg I can easily eat with my fingers – no mess stuff. Carrot batons, cucumber and pepper slices, grapes, sugar snap peas – all good prepared in advance and carried ready to eat in a box or bit of film. Or of course the humble apple, satsuma and banana is nice and easy – just chuck in your bag and go. Actually bananas should get a special snacking mention – they are awesome – I know lots of you hate the flavour and texture, but they are SO good for you.
I’ve even been known to carry a little tin of grapefruit with me (with a ring pull lid of course), there is something about this super sharp fruit that is both refreshing and resets my cravings for sweet things. I should say that if I plan on snacking on fruit and veg that needs peeling or has a stone or skin (or tin!) and I don’t think there will be a bin (when I’m on a day hike), I also always carry a small bag for rubbish so I can take the waste home easily, and a tissue to wipe my hands afterwards.
The simplest way to snack, I think, is to grab one of the huge range of cereal, seed and other bars available in the shops. I always have these things in my food cupboard at home, and you can pretty much always find one in my handbag or rucksack just in case. They make eating on the go super easy, and it is now really easy to make good snacking decisions with these things that don’t include a whole load of unwanted sugar and salt as companies have caught on that we want good raw energy.
My current favourite is the 9Bar Pumpkin bar, which is basically a whole load of seeds stuck together with natural stuff. Have you ever tried eating seeds when walking? They are really good for you but have a tendency to dance out of your hands and onto the floor. Even at my desk at work, unless my seeds are in my lunch time salad, it’s very difficult to eat a handful of pumpkin, sunflower or miscellaneous seeds. So these 9Bar bars are great.
Then there’s the Cliff Bars. These were sent to me to try, so they are new to me but I’m impressed with the ones I’ve tried so far. While 9Bar is designed for mid-morning snacking on the go, the Cliff Bar is designed as an energy bar for those needing something to help keep them going. Based on rolled oats and dates, they have no artificial nonsense in them, but will give you a carb-rich energy boost.
If I’m out all day I will take a selection of bars to make sure I have a variety of flavours and textures. I struggle to eat enough when I’m day hiking, so having a choice so I always “fancy” something is really important. When I’m in the office I will only have one with me, I’ll choose it in the morning before I head out of the house. Remember, all these are snacks, not meal replacements – not even breakfast (despite the Soreen bar pictured being called a breakfast bake). They are designed to give you an energy boots, fill a hunger hole, help keep you going with whatever you are doing until you can stop and eat properly. And remember, some of the available bars are so high in sugar and salt you really aren’t doing your body any favours if you eat them every single day.
If you were to provide me with a snack table that was half crisps and half chocolate, I would go for the crisps, every time. They don’t have to be particularly special crisps – although I definitely have my favourites and they tend to be the expensive hand cut oven cooked type. I generally don’t buy them to have at home any more – apart from the odd bag of tortilla chips to have with my chilli – because six bags of crisps from a multi bag wouldn’t last the weekend. I’ve also stopped having crisps as part of meals. I got into the common habit of having a bag of crisps every lunch time. Yes, every single day. I love them, but have had to train myself to eat them only as an occasional snack or treat rather than a daily indulgence. This way I thoroughly enjoy them for what they are – a bag of deep fried potato covered in salt. Mmmmmm. So anyway, bags.
Crisps and similar snacks can have an important part to play if you are out all day exerting yourself in a long hike. Yes, you need the sugar you get from fruit, veg and the various bars I’ve already talked about, but you also need salt. And a bag of crisps is a great way to get that. I generally go for something like Pitta Bakes, Mini Cheddars, some salted peanuts, or some popcorn. Popcorn is a great example, depending on the coating you can snack on popcorn with very few calories added to your intake (if you’re worried about that) – perfect for days at your desk when you’re snacking through boredom rather than true hunger.
I also want to give the new Nakd bags a little mention here. I’ve only recently discovered them (and feel they are bags and not bars!). Pictured near the top of this post, each bag contains a handful of sweet nuggets coasted in chocolate. Being date-based they have lots of good energy properties, and are absolutely packed full of flavour. A range I’ll be investigating more in my snacking in the next few weeks I’m sure!
GORP – Good Old Raisins and Peanuts
Good old raisins and peanuts – the fuel of adventurers for hundreds of years. How awesome are nuts and dried fruit?! You might get a few in your bars, you might have some salted peanuts in your bags, but a handful of mixed nuts, dried fruit and seeds is an absolutely brilliant snack that will provide some interest when you’re sat at your desk and some awesome energy when you’re out and about. I tend to go for a mixed bag with various nuts and raisins in, and use them regularly as a post evening-meal snack if I feel I need something else to eat before I go to bed (the days of “supper” are long gone for me). I also enjoy other dried fruit such as cranberries and mango, both perfect for hiking because you get a super sweet hit when you need it; the fact they are available in little pocket sized bags is handy as both are rather addictive!
Energy Boosting Drinks
While we’re on snacking to help boost energy I think I’ll take this opportunity to mention energy drinks. I’m not a big fan, really, but do see their place in offering a super quick shot of high sugar energy that can be just the thing in certain circumstances. I tend to gravitate towards the Lucozade Sport still drinks – I like to carry one in the bottom of my bag when on a day hike just in case water isn’t doing it. They contain carbohydrate and sodium which help hydrate you if you’ve neglected drinking, something I admit happened regularly before I discovered how awesome bladders are!
I recently gave the new IdrinQ a try, which is supposed to be full of good energy rather than just caffeine. It has a burnt caramel kind of flavour and is lightly sparkling. It’s I would be tempted to try again, although as it’s in a can it’s obviously no good to keep in the bottom of a rucksack for that just in case moment when out walking. Advertised as a “brain” drink, it’s more of a “spent too long at my desk and need a pick me up” rather than an on the go energy booster.
And The Rest
Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, you simply can’t beat a Snickers bar. When I’m walking I always carry a Snickers or two – the chocolate and peanuts can’t be beaten for a shot of delicious energy, they seem to have an “make it all better” ingredient in them. Peanut butter cups have the same ingredient, but Snickers are cheaper and easier to eat when you’re actually putting one foot in front of the other. For in-office-pick-me-ups, it’s nice to have a bar of good chocolate in your desk for really down moments (note to work colleagues, it’s mine!). A square or two of Lindt or Green & Blacks chocolate – we know dark is best but milk is okay – with a cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon can work wonders. If you feel yourself reaching for a sharing bag of Maltesers or Twirl Bites, get something like this instead and you’ll get the chocolate hit without the guilt.
And of course if you’re any kind of outdoors loving person you will know the benefit of having a crumpled up bag of jelly babies, jelly tots or wine gums in the bottom of your day sack at all times. There is nothing better on the last mile of a long hike than opening a bag of processed fruit flavoured chewy sugar and sharing it with your friends. An example of how important snacking can be to completing a challenge!
There are plenty of other snack ideas that I’ve probably forgotten. And I do feel the need to remind you that I’m just a snack-loving-blogger who can’t go a day without eating something between my meals – however healthy or unhealthy I’m being that day. These are some of my favourite on-the-go and not-at-home choices (snacking in the comfort of your own home has a whole different set of rules – I mean, you have access to all the food and all the equipment), but I’m sure you have plenty of other ideas too. And yes, I’ve written a whole post about snacking without mentioning cake. Or biscuits. Both things I love a lot, but I really shouldn’t!!
What are your favourite things for a quick and easy energy boost in the office or handy eat-on-the-go backpack snack? Let me know in the comments below.
The Cliff Bars and IdrinQ were both press samples, but this post has been in the pipeline for a while and there was no obligation to write about them. As always, this post is based on my experience and knowledge – I am no dietician or nutritionist, I just love my snacks!