The late-night munchies, the midday snack and the afternoon teas, snacking can be our greatest energy source but also the reason why we’re not seeing progress in the mirror. Contrary to old belief that snacking is good for you, many are taking a stance that snacking isn’t for everyone and can actually make you put on a few pounds. While there’s no questioning that all bodies are different and there is no one size fits all approach to eating habits, we talk to nutritionist and founder of Nomsoftheday, Shan Shan Feng, to tell us her views on snacking.
Nana Asia: What are the benefits of snacking?
When we think of snacking we automatically think of processed foods. But it is essentially a small meal between our main meals that can help us meet our daily nutritional requirements depending on what we choose to snack on. For example, choosing to have a protein-rich snack such as eggs, tofu, hummus can help be great for our energy and concentration levels, as well as muscle recovery and improve the quality of sleep if you’re snacking on it in the late afternoon as it’s the building block of our sleep hormone. For some, snacking on a fibre-filled snack can be a great way to prevent you from overeating or eating too quick during your meals later, as to waiting until you’re really hungry. It can also help you meet your daily dietary fibre goals which can help with the excretion of toxins and waste from your body.
Nana Asia: Is snacking for everyone?
I don’t think there is ever ‘one’ thing that is applicable for everyone, it really depends on their needs, lifestyle and how their body responds. For instance, if you’re someone who frequently eats lunch out daily and it usually consists of carbs with little vegetable and protein, you can try adding a protein and fibre filled snack in the afternoon. This can not only help with your concentration, energy levels and satiety levels that I mentioned previously but most likely, will also help with the 3pm slump and prevent you from reaching for that muffin.
If you’re someone who wants to start eating healthier and incorporate more vegetables, fruits and protein into your diet, why not try with a small snack that you can easily prepare and bring with you? And see how you feel in terms of mood, energy, concentration and sleep. If you’re already having a very balanced meal during main meals, don’t get hungry or get the energy slump, then there is no need to intentionally incorporate snacks into your lifestyle.
Nana Asia: Contrary to the popular belief of eating 3 meals a day and snacks in between, what are your thoughts on intermittent fasting?
Again, no one size fits all. If you’re eating a cinnamon roll or hurriedly eating a piece of bread whilst walking to the office or before you leave home, I don’t think it will provide you the intended benefits of breakfast. For most of the people in Hong Kong, if you’re not someone who has the time to eat breakfast or is hungry in the morning, then you may be better off skipping it. Rather, listen and be more in tune with your body, eat when you’re hungry and when you can actually sit down to enjoy and recognise the food you’re eating. You may not be fasting for 16hours exactly, but that 1hour difference won’t matter compared to what you learn from tuning into your body and listening to when you’re actually hungry and full.
Nana Asia: What are some considerations to take when choosing a healthy snack?
I try to avoid anything with refined sugar because that is more likely to give you an instant energy boost but more likely to result in more cravings and cause you to reach for more
food throughout the day. Also, look at the balance between the 3 main macronutrients, protein, fat and carbohydrates, ideally it should have more protein and fat than carbohydrates per serving to help maintain your blood sugar levels throughout the day, because a snack is meant to fuel you and sustain your energy levels throughout the rest of the day. And of course, look at the ingredients list, if there’s anything you don’t know, then do you best to avoid it.
Nana Asia: How do you snack smartly and what are your recommendations of healthy snacks?
I think a lot of the time we eat absentmindedly, but if we take a step back and ask ourselves first, are we hungry; am I stressed; am I tired; am I thirsty; how am I feeling? We’re more able to be in tune with our body, what we’re feeling and what we need to fuel our body with.
If I’m feeling a bit low in mood and energy, I would reach for something that contains natural sugar with a bit of protein, like Medjool dates with some nuts, which provides a delicious caramel-like treat that gives me a bit of the sweetness that my body would naturally reach for, amino acids from the nuts to produce your happy hormone, serotonin and full of fibre to keep me full. If you’re looking for an easy grab-and-go, RXBar Protein Bar is made from whole foods only – egg white, almonds, cashews and sweetened with dates. And of course, nuts are a great option as well. My brand of nuts, Nomsoftheday is designed to provide both the flavour and crunch that we look for in snacks whilst using only natural ingredients. It also has an additional benefit; the nuts are soaked first so it’s easier to digest, perfect for those with food intolerance, and also makes