There have been numerous discussions about the question of how many meals to eat throughout the day. Three large meals a day? Six small meals? And the truth is, there is no one truth. Each of us can adapt a different body composition according to preferences for health status and nutritional goals. However, for many people, snacks, the small meals between breakfast, lunch and dinner, can provide uniform energy and satiety levels throughout the day and even help us maintain our weight loss goal.
When we go a long time between meals, we may arrive hungry for the next meal. And the hungrier we are, the more likely we are to fall on the food, eat fast, listen less to our satiety and overeat.
After eating like this we can feel bloated and uncomfortable, and in the long term, we’ll gain weight. A snack can prevent this situation, because when we aren’t too hungry for a meal we can eat consciously, attentively and in tune with what our bodies need.
So what shall we eat? Here are some nutritious, healthy and easy-to-prepare options.
Something to smear
There is nothing like the sound of a bite from a crispy slice of bread that has just come out of the toaster, with many options for "something to spread" on it.
To choose bread wisely, look at the list of ingredients on the back of the product and buy bread made from 100% whole wheat flour without added sugar. Compared to white flour, whole wheat flour is enriched with vitamins, protein and dietary fiber. These fibers have many health benefits as they help maintain sugar levels, contribute to the health and activity of the digestive system, promote a feeling of satiety over time and more.
And what is smeared? We prefer spreads that are as natural as possible, and with as little added sugar as possible. So, if you’re in the salty section, go for spreads like avocado, cheese or homemade chickpeas. If you fancy something sweet, try a combination of natural peanut butter with unsweetened fruit jam or tahini mixed with date spread. Love chocolate? You can easily make a homemade spread from one tablespoon of peanut butter/nuts/raw tahini, along with a teaspoon of cocoa powder and a teaspoon of natural sweetener.
It's easy to get lost in the dairy department at the supermarket, and it seems that in recent years the arsenal of yogurts is growing with more and more flavors, soy milk yogurts and protein-enriched products.
Yet really most of these products hide less nutritious ingredients like sugar, artificial sweeteners and food coloring. There’s no problem eating them as part of a balanced and varied menu, but the best choice is natural yogurt which is only milk and cultures. Add fruit, lightly sweetened homemade granola and/or nuts to yogurt. For a salty version, make dreamy tzatziki with chopped cucumber, garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt to the yogurt. It’s fun to dip a cracker or chopped vegetable sticks in it.
The sweets of nature. In order to promote a feeling of satiety, slow down the rate of digestion and moderate the rise in sugar levels that may be caused by eating the fruit, at the same time eat a healthy fat like a few walnuts or almonds, or eat a cracker with natural peanut butter.
And remember, variety is the key since each fruit has its own benefits and its content and composition of vitamins and minerals is unique to it. For example, oranges and kiwis are especially rich in vitamin C; mango and melon in vitamin A; citrus fruits in folic acid; and bananas in potassium. The more diversity the more our body will benefit.
Sometimes we want something salty and crunchy that can be eaten as a snack while we watch TV. And it's true that there are a million snacks on the shelf that meet this definition, but if we feel like going for less processed foods, popcorn is a quick and inexpensive solution.
To make perfect popcorn, preheat oil in a saucepan over medium heat (3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil), 2 corn kernels and cover with a lid. When the corn kernels explode, take them out of the pot.
Add half a cup of new corn kernels, spread them evenly on the bottom of the pot and remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds, so that all the grains approach the threshold of blasting all together.
And for the moment of truth return the pot to the fire and wait until all the corn kernels have exploded. The popcorn can be seasoned with salt or added spices of choice such as chili powder, zaatar, paprika or garlic powder.
Let's drink something
We really don’t have to chew for a week. A smoothie is a great snack that can also be taken anywhere. To make a winning and balanced smoothie, combine with spinach or celery to balance out the sugar level. For protein, add yogurt or milk to enrich the smoothie with dietary fiber. Try a few tablespoons of oats or chia seeds, and to feel full and have a creamy texture, add a fat source like nuts or a teaspoon of peanut butter/raw tahini.
And now, as the weather cools down and hunger strikes, try replacing the smoothie with hot soup.
Dates have always been here, but lately everyone seems to be going crazy over them a lot more with food products and energy bars that are mostly made from dates. Beyond the sweet taste, dates are rich in dietary fiber and are a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s fun to combine flavors like a date stuffed with walnut, but if you feel like upgrading add peanut butter and put it in the freezer - it's a delicacy.
If you want to go even one step further, make homemade date balls from natural ingredients. And if you need something to grab and throw in a bag, there are a variety of options for date energy bars. Be sure to read the list of ingredients and buy products that don’t contain added sugar as the dates are sweet enough.
There's nothing to do, no matter how much we resist, there's nothing like a slice of cake or a cookie with our afternoon coffee. Choose a more nutritious option such as cakes and cookies made from whole wheat, whole spelt or oatmeal.
The purpose of this article is to provide information and inspiration only and isn’t a substitute for nutritional advice.
Gil Avidor-Aloni is a food blogger and consultant. The writer holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Tel Aviv University and is a HealthCoach certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York.