You should snack, a lot. During the day you should eat approximately 200 calories every 2 to 4 hours, both for health and productivity. If you let your blood sugar get too low, you could be on your way to some serious binge eating and desperate snack choices. In fact, 90% of your overeating could probably have been avoided if you ate a little before you got hungry.
But you don’t plan to snack, so you overeat. Then what happens? Grogginess, sleepiness and the inevitable productivity plummet. Your response to said grogginess? Candy, sweets, coffee, and other quick fixes that cause quick blood sugar highs only to be followed by lower lows. The cycle continues forever until you actually go to sleep. Regular, planned snacking can avoid all this.
So how to we snack? Clearly we have to make some smart choices and they don’t have to include baby carrots and diced apples. A snack should meet some physical needs (keeping our blood sugar from getting too low) and some mental needs (i.e. Brain Food!).
So we need snacks that meet the following 4 criteria:
- It must have a low Glycemic Index. The higher the GI, the quicker your blood glucose levels will rise. If your blood sugar gets too high, your body releases insulin to bring it down. This makes you tired and hungry again right after you just ate. Lower carbs, more fat and fiber (to slow absorption) will mean snacks with a lower GI.
- It must be filling. Ever take a pill in the morning and as soon as you turn around you can’t remember if you took it or not? You don’t want a snack like that.
- It must be interesting to your mouth. Your mouth likes contrasts: sweet and sour. crunchy and chewy. We want a snack that uses this.
- Ideally our snack is self-regulating. That means that we won’t eat too much of it. This one is tougher, and we won’t always find something that has this quality. In those cases we have to practice the dreaded art of self control.
Stumped for ideas? Here are 5 snacks (in no particular order) that fit that criteria and that you’re probably not eating:
- Spicy Nuts.Now regular nuts meet our A, B and C requirements. They’re crunchy and interesting and full of fat, fiber and protein. But if you had a trough of them at the office, you’d be buying new pants weekly. That’s why I like spicy peanuts, they’re self regulating. You can only eat as many as you can handle. I like Ass Kickin’ Peanuts myself.
As an added bonus, snacking on these all day really builds up your tolerance for heat. So the next time you and your brother go out for Thai food you can make him look like a total wimp (I hate my brother).
- Homemade Salsa and Tortilla Chips.Tortilla chips with any dip are crunchy, creamy and low on the GI. Salsa is the best choice for a dip because it has the highest flavor/nutrition ratio and because when you make a batch it’s good for a week. You can pack it up and take it to work, unlike guacamole, which might make it to the table before it turns brown.
And I say homemade because it’s better, cheaper and super easy. I use the Alton Brown salsa recipe (halve that unless you’re a pro linebacker) and I buy bulk tortillas from the supermarket and fry them up in some corn oil. In about 10 minutes I have a bag of chips at 1/6 the cost and they’re restaurant quality.
- Deviled Eggs.Boiled eggs have the same benefits, but deviled eggs bring a little more flavor to the mouth party (yeah, I said that). They taste great, they’re filling and they have 0 carbs which means they don’t even register on the GI. I would call them self regulating because they are not easily packed and transported.
- Half a Toasted Peanut Butter and Honey sandwich.A whole sandwich is a bit too much for a snack, but a half is perfect. The peanut butter is the key part here, it’s got enough fat, protein and fiber to keep the GI low. The honey provides a nice sweetness with fewer calories (sugar is only 80% as sweet as honey) and it won’t create the purple slurm on one side of your sandwich like jelly will.
Don’t skip the toasting part though. The toast has a crunchy outside, chewy inside thing that makes this snack interesting; remember that’s important.
- Homemade Popcorn.This is my favorite. It’s pure fiber and carbohydrate and it’s GI isn’t too high. It tastes great and it has the most interesting mouth feel (I’m telling you, that’s important) of any snack. It’s perfectly healthy if you don’t add butter and it’s not too bad if you use a healthier olive oil butter spread. It keeps great for a day or so and if you haven’t eaten it by then (why would you not eat it by then?) throw it in a bowl with milk and sugar. Popcorn is the original cereal.
And if you make it yourself (don’t buy those overpriced bags of microwave popcorn with carcinogenic imitation butter) it’s practically free. It literally costs pennies per gallon if you pop it in a wok on your stove.
Almost free, tasty and healthy. What more could you want? Huh? You want more? 5 isn’t enough for you? Fine, whatever. Here is a 6th:
- Bonus: Diced Apple with Lime. This is big in Mexico and it’s a great way to make an apple a little tastier. Just dice it up real fine and squeeze a lime or lemon on top. The sour gives a great contrast to the earthy, sweet flavor of the apple. It also stops the apple from turning brown so you can dice it at home and throw it in a zip lock for work.
Snacking is an important part of your day but you have to snack smart. Look for things that have a low GI (fat and fiber) and always plan to snack. It’s thinking that you won’t eat anything between breakfast and lunch that leaves you standing in front of the candy machine at 10:30 in the morning, starting a cycle that’s going to ruin your day.