To snack or not to snack? That is the ‘high protein, low carb’ question

If you’re anything like me, snacks are an unavoidable part of your life; something you can not live without, as you dart between meetings, clients or errands. You may have heard contrasting views and opinions on the value of snacking, but snacks need not be a bad thing…

To snack or not to snack?

There is much research exploring the positive and negative effects of snacking throughout the day, between meals. Some studies deliver evidence for and some are against; which doesn’t help.

There is little evidence to say that snacking actually speeds up your metabolism; as is the popular belief. Neither is there substantial evidence to say that you’ll end up eating less the following mealtime just because you’ve had a snack. Spreading your calories out evenly in several smaller meals consumed throughout the day does not appear to make much of a difference to your metabolism or blood sugar control, than having three larger meals.

The total calories you consume throughout the day is the biggest factor to consider; regardless of timing, size and regularity of meals.

It’s an individual thing

If you’re one of those people who, once left to ‘starve’ between meals, will prowl around for the biggest, most calorific burger, fries, milkshake and doughnuts as soon as the clock strikes 12, then a small snack at 11 is probably an advisable plan of action. If poor food choices are your biggest vice when you get ‘hangry’ then snacking is probably for you.

From the research it seems that the approach to snacking is actually quite individual; it’s up to you to decide whether you’re better off with a few snacks to prevent the poor meal choices or whether you’re better off limiting your munching to meal times.

The only thing that is unequivocal is the importance of choosing the right kinds of snacks to consume.

So what’s a bad snack?

You may think that this is pretty obvious. I’m sure you’d say, ‘I always pick healthy snacks and I try not to eat crisps or chocolate too often’. Of course you’d be right; it’s better to limit these kinds of snacks as they are packed with too much saturated fat, are high in carbohydrates and are of almost zero nutritional benefit to our bodies. However, what do you choose instead?

Clients often ask me for healthy snack ideas: ‘I think I’m getting my mealtimes about right now, but I’m still struggling with the snacks in between. I never know what to choose.’

So with that in mind, I’ve put together some healthy, high protein, yummy snack ideas to get you through the day; full of energy without the hideous sugar crashes.

 

1. Nuts

A handful of nuts (almond, pistachios, cashews, walnuts) with a few strawberries or raspberries if you’ve got a sweet craving.

Almonds

Nuts are high in protein and high in good fats; for this reason they will fill you up nicely. However, keep the portion to a handful as they are high in calories (all be it good calories).

Protein = 4g
Calories = 100 Kcal (with the berries = 130Kcal)

 

2. Savoury Greek Yoghurt

3 tablespoons of home-made savoury Greek Yoghurt dip (add salt, pepper and other flavourings such as Tabasco or fresh or dried chilli) with veggie sticks (celery, pepper, cucumber, small amount of carrot).

Savoury Greek yoghurt

Greek yoghurt is a high protein, low carbohydrate base to make sweet or savoury. When it comes to things to dip, go for lower carb veggies- such as celery or cucumber, that way you can use as many as you like!

Protein = 10g
Calories = 80kcal (with veggies = 120kcal)

 

3. Sweet Greek Yoghurt

3 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with a handful of berries (which can be frozen).

Sweet Greek yoghurt

Berries are a great source of essential micronutrients and antioxidants and are lower in sugar than most other fruits; they’re just all round ‘super’. Berries can be quite pricey and, as with all fresh produce, may be past their best before you’ve even got started on the punnet. This is where frozen berries come into their own. They have all the same levels of ‘super’ but will last much longer; meaning you can dip in whenever you fancy.

Protein = 10g
Calories = 80kcal (with a serving of berries = 130kcal)

 

4. Nut butter with apple or celery

Medium apple slices with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (have half an apple if the apple is large) or replace apple with celery for a lower sugar, savoury version.

 
Nut butter with apple

Protein = 4g
Calories = 100kcal with celery (with half apple = 150kcal)

 

5. Nut butter with wholemeal toast

1 slice of wholemeal bread toast (not white and ideally seeded, for added protein) with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. Remember to go easy on the amount of nut butter you use. Spread it thinly!

Nut butter on wholemeal toast

Protein = 4g
Calories = 220kcal

Note: Almond butter is a better option (although it’s generally more expensive) as it contains more unsaturated and less saturated fat than peanut butter.

 

6. Eggs

1 large, hard-boiled egg or a single egg omelette

Hard boiled egg

If you’re wanting an omelette make sure you cook in a smear of olive oil (please don’t use the hideous low cal sprays!), and add spinach with prawns, chicken, turkey or tuna to make it a more filling option or a light lunch.

Protein = 6g
Calories = 80kcal egg alone (cooked in a small amount of olive oil and served with prawns and spinach = 150kcal)

 

7. Houmous

3 tablespoons of houmous with enough veggies to dip (celery, pepper, cucumber, small amount of carrot).

Houmous

For a healthier version, make your own houmous! It’s simple and quick to make; just throw the chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper into a blender and give it a blitz. Avoid serving with pitta or crisps and replace with lower carb veggies.

Protein = 2 – 3g
Calories = 90kcal (with veggies = 130kcal)

 

8. Cottage cheese

3 tablespoons of cottage cheese on 2 high fibre, seeded crackers.

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is a low-fat cheese option and is also high in protein. It’s surprisingly versatile and can be used as a dip or topping on almost anything. Add salt and pepper or for added protein add a handful of prawns or some tuna

Protein = 12g
Calories = 80kcal (with the seeded crackers = 160kcal)

 

9. Prawns and tuna

Add a handful of prawns or half a tin of tuna to your omelette or your cottage cheese crackers for an added protein hit.

Prawns

It’s a good way to increase satiety without piling on the carbs and the calories.

If you’re choosing tuna from a can, pick the one in spring water, to limit the added salt from brine and unnecessary fat from oil.

You could also simply snack on the prawns and tuna on their own! I’m sure your colleagues won’t mind the fishy business…

Protein = 10g (prawns), 20g (tuna)
Calories = 50kcal (prawns), 60kcal (tuna)

 

10. Cold meat and poultry

Snacking on small pieces of lean, cold meat is a great way to pack in your protein at snack-time and will keep you fuller for longer.

 
Chicken breast

Try half a grilled chicken or turkey breast cut into strips or chunks. You could even use left over cuts from last night’s dinner. Waste not want not!

Protein = 25g
Calories = 100Kcal

 

Some points to consider when you choose your snack:

  • Go for higher protein and lower sugar options to keep you fuller for longer and to prevent sugar spikes and dips throughout the day. Keep the high sugar snacks to a minimum. This includes fruit!
  • Consider your portion sizes. The guide calorie and protein values shown above are for recommended portion sizes – don’t go over the top!
  • Be conscious about your snacking and consider keeping a record, for a week, of the number of snacks you have eaten between meals. In general, the more snacks you eat in between meals the higher your overall daily calorie consumption will be.
  • If you’re snacking on the go, try to avoid random purchases from the nearest convenience store. You’ll tend to make unwise choices or be fooled by pseudo-healthy snack bars hiding a load of sugar. Try to pack your snacks the night before. You can buy some great snack boxes these days with room for just the right amount of inter-meal ‘snackage’.
  • Before you reach for the snack, ask yourself whether it’s actually hunger you’re feeling or just boredom, habit or stress that’s driving you to munch. It’s often mind over matter. So let your head rule your stomach, not the other way around.

 

Right I’m off for a snack. All this talk of food is making me hungry 😉

Until next week…..

2 thoughts on “To snack or not to snack? That is the ‘high protein, low carb’ question

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