We all love food. From the moment we are old enough to eat, we are drawn to try as many different foods as possible to ensure that we don’t go hungry, as well as making sure we have our recommended number of calories per day. Whilst most of our food will be featured in the most important meals of the day, there is nothing stopping us from deciding to take a look at the many different types of snacks that we can to help tingle our tastebuds. This is only normal, after all.
So, just how can you enjoy tasty snacks like dark chocolate and almonds and still lose weight?
Q. I’m trying to lose weight and would like to know which snacks, other than fruit, are suitable to eat between meals.
A. Fruit can be a good choice because it tends to be relatively low in calories and packs in lots of useful vitamins and super-nutrients. However, researchers looking into the way we snack tell us that choices need not be simply based around those that provide the fewest calories.
What is also worth considering is how a snack affects the feeling of fullness and how this sense of being sated then impacts on your next meal. In some cases, it is also important to take into account how many of the total calories in the food, are actually absorbed and, of course, a snack has to fulfil the role of being tasty and desirable. In other words, suitable snacks needs to multi-task.
Dark chocolate seems to fit the bill quite nicely. It has more potentially heart-friendly super-nutrients than milk versions and, as it contains more of a type of fat called stearic acid than milk chocolate, it is harder, more dense and takes more time to digest. This means that it stays in your stomach for longer and that more time passes before hunger hormones tell you that it is time to eat again. In a study, dark chocolate was found to lead to a drop in calorie intake at the subsequent meal of 8–18 per cent.
Almonds are another interesting snack choice. Their combination of fibre in the brown skin and protein in the nut itself gives them a strong satiating effect. Studies have shown that simply swapping your normal daily snacks for a handful of almonds will not lead to weight gain and may help you to shed some.
This is partly down to their hunger- beating qualities, but also because about 10-20 per cent of the fat in this particular nut (and therefore up to 27 of the 183 calories in a 30g handful) is not absorbed because of the fibrous brown skin.
Other filling snacks include foods that are naturally good for protein such as a mug of hot skimmed milk, or a glass of cold milk, a yoghurt, a small piece of cheese or a handful of other nuts such as peanuts or cashews. This is because foods good for protein, even minus the presence of fibre, also help to quash appetite.
Snacking tends to get bad press and, obviously, opting for those that give a quick sugar-fix, such as many cereal bars, biscuits, muffins and cakes, have helped to cultivate this image, but scientific evidence is beginning to show that savvy snacking can be good for you and help in your weight-loss plan.