I know I mentioned it briefly the other day, but the times they are a’changin’ in my life at the moment. That’s why things have been a little quiet around here lately, and why the meal plan is delayed – but I swear to God every waking moment I have this week that isn’t spent at work, I’ll be working on it. Promise!
In the meantime though, I thought – new year and all – it might be nice to mention a few of the snacks that I consider good go-to foods when I’m getting peckish. This isn’t just for you guys, either – after a pretty food-filled Christmas, I’m having to readjust to my regular diet again, too – so it’s good to have a bit of a run-down of my favourite choices when hunger strikes.
I’m ever more convinced that when I’m eating better, I’m on a kind of natural high – I’ve got more energy, I’m more focused, and I feel considerably less bloated and sluggish. And when you’re feeling like that, the temptation to emotionally eat a slab of chocolate as big as your arm seems to just… Disappear.
I’m also a big believer that my sugar cravings always, always disappear after three days of cutting them out – but during those three days, I’m always pretty damn hungry… And I’ve got to find tasty things to eat to fill the sugar gap.
So, with no further ado:
1) Pistachio Nuts.
I love these lil’ guys. They’re just so cute in their little helmets that I want to eat them all up… Or something like that. Joking aside though, they’re a good snack to have not just because they taste good, or because they’re a great source of protein, but because they keep you busy trying to get into them. Chances are, if you’re just starting on a health kick, you’re feeling hungry because you’ve been eating without thinking before. I know that feeling pretty well – you’re eating watching TV, eating reading a book, and eating when you’re bored.
Pistachio nuts – and I do mean the unsalted variety – will keep you occupied breaking the shells, meaning they have a longer time to hit your stomach and let your body know you’ve eaten something. 25 of these bad boys equals about a hundred calories – and believe me, 25 pistachios takes quite a long time to eat. Yum.
2) Apple and Nut Butter.
This might sound like a bit of a weird one, but I promise you – once you try it, you’ll get where I’m coming from.
Now, a word on nut butters – you’ve got to be careful with these guys. A good nut butter will mostly be made of nuts, and maybe a pinch of salt. That’s as opposed to the really processed varieties, in which you’ll find “nuts, sugar, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono- and diglycerides, and salt.”
Personally, I’m quite a fan of almond butter – but they’re all pretty awesome, depending on what floats your boat. Take a tablespoon of that, slice up an apple and dip/spread/whatever floats your boat – and you’ve got a whole world of yum for under 150kcal.
I’m a big fan of houmous – although I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a little over-liberal with it. The healthiness of this snack varies depending on your preferred dipping tool. Carrots or mange tout are obviously lower in carbs and calories, but a pita bread, or a couple of crackers, can really hit the spot when you’ve got a craving for something a bit more substantial.
It’s worth opting for the low-fat version if you can – but sometimes I’ll mix it up and grab some of the caramelised onion version, or even make my own lime and coriander one from a recipe I stole from Jamie Oliver that you can find here. The only caveat I’d add is that you should definitely keep an eye on how much of it you’re getting through. It’s very, very easy to scoop up an entire tub without realising it, especially if you’re used to going to town on chips and dips – so make sure you’re keeping tabs on your portion size!
4) Sweet Potato and Chili Sauce.
This is a pretty substantial snack, and it’s surprisingly delicious cold too – so it’s quite a good one for when you’re stuck in the office. There’s a great recipe for sweet chili sauce here, although I rarely add the siracha or fish sauce (out of pure laziness – I’m sure it’s delicious). I’ll peel a sweet potato, slice it up into chunky fries, and drizzle a good squeeze of lime on it. Whack it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes at around 400 degrees (although this will vary depending on the thickness of your fries, the size of your potato, and so on so you’ll want to keep an eye on it.)
Let ’em cool down and pop them in a lunchbox – then dip them in a tablespoon of sweet chili sauce at your desk. Seriously tasty.
(Extra tip – sometimes I’ll make this into a lunch by having it with some grilled chicken and a salad. Yum.)
5) Fresh fruit.
Fruit’s managed to garner a bit of a bad rep these days, because it contains sugar – but it’s important to put that sugar into context. A teaspoon of sugar is just that – sugar. But a piece of fruit is a different beast entirely. That sugar is in there with vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytonutrients and water – all things that will make you healthier, and help your body to run more efficiently.
Also, let’s look at the bigger picture. A can of coke contains around 39g of sugar and no nutritional bonus; whereas a medium apple contains about 15g, plus all the things I’ve mentioned above. This means that if you’re craving sugar, you’re likely to find enough of a hit in there to get rid of the urge – while giving your body a boost of vitamins and minerals that will keep every bit of your body happy.
And don’t forget to experiment a little! Try a new fruit, and mix it up to work out what floats your boat. I, for instance, can’t stand bananas if they’re anything less than almost green – my Mum’s exactly the opposite, liking them when they’re soft and squidgy. Apples are another one – I like them sweet and crunchy, whereas a friend of mine likes them sharp, tangy, and a little bit soft.
You only figure this stuff out by trying out different kinds of fruit – but once you’ve got it figured out, you’ll have a whole host of tasty snacks at your disposal. Perfect!
It’s very easy to think you’re hungry, when actually, you’re just thirsty. It’s worth making sure that you’ve always got a pint of water to hand, and taking a few good glugs when you’re peckish (and, in fact, at regular intervals throughout the day!) And if you’ve got a sweet craving, a fruit tea, or a few slices of lime, cucumber, or lemon in your water can really hit the spot – so give it a try.
And now… I’m back to work. But if you’ve got any suggestions for healthy snacks or tasty treats, pop ’em in the comments below!