Lifestyle: Should You Be Snacking?
The office biscuit tin can be a dangerous thing. Accredited practising nutritionist Gen James-Martin asks: Should you be snacking?
As a nutritionist I get asked time and time again about the best style of eating. Should you stick to three square meals a day and steer clear of snacks, or is it better to eat small meals and snacks regularly across the day? Does one pattern of eating keep your hunger at bay or give your metabolism a boost?
As with most things in nutrition, there is no one right answer - and put simply, different styles of eating suit different people. For some people the idea of eating three meals a day with nothing in between is impossible (I belong firmly in this camp) and regular snacks keep you on the straight and narrow preventing a blow out at the next meal. For others what starts out as a snack often turns into a full blown meal before you know it (I’ll just have a piece of fruit...with some yoghurt, and a coffee, maybe that muffin too), so it’s safer to steer clear all together. As with many things, it’s about figuring out what style works for you.
But what does the science say? Generally speaking, studies that compare snackers with non-snackers have found that people who snack consume more energy than people who don’t i.e. when you eat between meals, most people don’t compensate for the energy they are consuming in the snack by eating less at the next mealtime. However, there are also studies that have looked at appetite and hunger, and found these are better controlled in snackers compared to non-snackers; so clearly there are benefits to both styles of eating.
In terms of metabolic differences, eating more regularly doesn’t have any significant effect on your metabolic rate. While there is a small amount
of energy burnt each time we eat in order to digest, absorb and store nutrients from our food (known as the thermogenic effect of eating), this is only about 10% of the calories we consume - so not a big difference in the scheme of things!
I’ve obviously made my personal position clear; I am and always will be a
snacker. To me snacks are an excellent opportunity to get in food groups that we sometimes neglect in our main meals - think fresh fruit, nuts and dairy.
With that in mind here’s a recipe for one of my favourite snacks - a choc-cashew protein ball. Recipes for these tasty morsels have been popping up all over the place, with variations including everything from maca powder to bee pollen. I like to keep it simple and use ingredients that don’t come with a $20 health halo price tag where possible. For me, it’s about having something that is sweet but preferable to the vending machine offerings. One of these with a coffee at 3pm keeps me powering for the afternoon.
P O W E R B A L L S
Makes approximately 16 balls
I N G R E D I E N T S
½ cup cashews (or other nut of choice)
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup neutral flavoured protein powder
2 heaped tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
10-12 medjool dates
2 tbsp sweetener (I use honey)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ tbsp cinnamon
Desiccated coconut or crushed pistachios to coat
M E T H O D
1. Place cashews and seeds into food processor and pulse until they are crushed. You want them nice and fine so the balls hold together but don’t go so far that its dust. Remove and set aside.
2. Place dates, coconut oil and sweetener into food processor and pulse until combined.
3. Return nuts and seeds mixture to food processor, add protein powder, raw cacao, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Pulse until dry and wet mixtures come together and form a ball. If the mixture is too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of any milk (cow, soy, rice, almond) until you reach the desired consistency.
4. Roll into balls with approximately 1 tablespoon of mixture for each. Coat
with desiccated coconut or crushed pistachios.
H I N T S
Pop in an airtight container in the freezer and take them out as you need. This will also stop you eating them all in one sitting when you realise how delicious they are.
Feeling lazy? Instead of rolling the mixture into balls, line a brownie tray
with greaseproof paper and spread the mixture into the tray - then refrigerate and cut into slices.
M I X I T U P
Try different combos of nuts, seeds and flavourings. Swap cinnamon for cardamom, vanilla extract for other natural extracts like coconut or try different fruits like dried apricots.