By: Sheila Kun RN, BA, BSN, MS
You must be surprised that I am promoting snacking in this week’s write-up. I don’t want to give you the false impression that I don’t like to eat. Being health conscious does not mean starving and counting calories at all time. The last few weeks, I have given you some good recipes. This will, I hope we will continue to journey together to build up a good eating habit so that food becomes our friend.
I was not brought up to have snacks. We had three meals and really nothing in between. Why? We were barely having enough money to buy rice, let alone snacks; we could not afford to have snacks. Hence when reading about the benefits of snacking or doing five small meals a day, it was not an easy rule to follow. Snacking has endured a bad reputation for a very long time, because if it is not done right, you could have an extra 100 calories a day beyond the calories you can burn. This could add up to be an extra pound per month and 12 pounds per year. So rule number one is: Don’t snack just because you feel like eating without good planning. On the other hand, snacking can fill nutritional gaps and allow blood sugar not to dip down so low. Snacking, spreading meals and calories, might require less insulin and might reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Planning is everything. If you find yourself too hungry, when you are reaching for a snack, you might end up reaching for something loaded with calories. So plan your snacks ahead of time.
Throughout the years, I have learned from my dietitian colleagues to select some snacks that are healthy and tasty.
Sweet peppers, just the beautiful colors of red, orange and yellow would attract you to try. I was not brought up snacking veggies. In the older days, crackers were the favorite snacks to fill in the hunger gaps. Looking back, that is a lot of carbohydrates that I did not need. Sweet peppers come in the right size and easy to tug in your lunch bags. Loaded with vitamins and nutrients, they have become my top favorite snack.
Nuts are good for you. In small amount, (6-10) nuts provide the healthy fats you need for brain growth. Of course if you eat a cupful, that would be another story. Almond or walnut is my top pick.
Avocado, spread thinly over crackers, is another delicious snack that provides non-animal fat. It can be mixed with your favorite smoothies.
String cheese is easy to carry and a crowd pleaser to kids. We tried it at a kid’s birthday party and it did not disappoint. Another easy way to get protein is to get a hardboiled egg. One of our favorites is to use leftover hardboiled egg and mix it with salad.
From Asia, the popular smoothie is still prepared in many households: use cucumber, bell pepper, bitter melon, apple or pear, and celery. Now being flexible, you can change the ingredients to your own liking. Any mixture of vegetables or fruit is good. Experiment to the liking of your taste bud.
So in conclusion, enjoy the snack by pacing and planning ahead. For example, have a small protein smoothie when your exercise class in the gym is at 5:30 p.m. You don’t want to do your exercise dehydrated. In my case, I would have cramps in my legs or toes if I am hungry and dehydrated going into an exercise class.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: find your favorite healthy snacks.
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