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The right way to snack

Our team Nutritional therapist, Nathalie Gudgeon, has written a series of posts sharing her valuable tips on preparing healthy food. Today she talks about how to prepare healthy snacks, and the pitfalls of snacking to watch out for.



"Can I have a snack?" Is a question I hear too often. It can be frustrating but not if you're armed with the right kind of snacks! We often give out cereal bars and biscuits as the easy option – I do it too! However, it’s wise to watch your children's sugar intake for many reasons.


Sugar in children’s diets is something I write and comment on frequently and it’s also something I am passionate about promoting both in my practice and at home for my own family. Many parents attend my clinic feeling frustrated with the challenges of minimising sugar in their child’s diet. It seems every day there is an opportunity for cake, sweets and sugary snacks. Sugar that is consumed in excess and therefore not utilised is linked to obesity, diabetes, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. In children, sugar excess may account for concentration difficulties, sleep problems, hyperactivity and digestive upset. More than ever, now is the time for us to stabilise our children’s blood sugar to keep them emotionally and physically supported. That goes for mums and dads too – for many it is a challenging time and we need to provide the right fuel to keep calm and avoid burn out.


Many parents ask me frequently; how can I stop my kids asking for food constantly? The answer lies with protein rich foods at each meal and snack as this helps to regulate sugar intake. Protein slows the release of sugar into the blood stream, as can choosing complex rather than refined carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates such as fruit with skin, root vegetables and whole grains take longer to break down in the digestive system so there is a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. This avoids highs and lows, with a more even blood sugar level helping to avoid cravings and melt downs!  


I offer a simple piece of advice to clients; look for foods that are below 5g of sugar per 100g. This is considered low in sugar. Take a look at your kid’s cereal bars or fruit yogurts and you may see that they contain as high as 15g of sugar for a 30g serving. The recommendation is for children aged 7-10 years to eat no more than 24g of free sugar in one day! For adults it is 30g per day. I often demonstrate to parents in clinic how a bowl of cereal, followed by a kid’s cereal bar and a glass of orange juice is more than 24g a day. Simple trades, such as an orange over a glass of orange juice or an oatcake over a cereal bar can really help to reduce free sugar in the diet.


With each meal and snack, consider how you can provide a balance of macronutrients:

  1. Protein (meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds)

  2. Good fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds)

  3. Complex carbs (brown rice, root/starchy vegetables, wholegrain breads and pastas, legumes)

  4. A good level of un-starchy vegetables with each meal is great if you can achieve this as a part of the daily plate.

Here are some examples of how to put this into practice:

Breakfast

  • Two scrambled eggs on 1 slice wholegrain toast with 1 tsp butter and baby tomatoes

  • Whole grain oat porridge with full fat milk or dairy free milk and 1 tbsp cashew butter.

Dinner

  • Fish goujons with sweet potato and salad

  • Falafels, hummus dip, carrot sticks and baked sweet potato chips.

Snacks

  • 20g of cheddar cheese chunks with 10 grapes (this is one serving of fruit)

  • 2 tbsp of hummus or guacamole dip with chopped vegetable sticks (carrot, pepper, celery)

  • 1 tbsp of almond butter/peanut butter on 2 rough oatcake or sliced apple

  • 20g of good quality raw dark chocolate (70-85%) with a satsuma

  • 1 x 125ml natural yogurt pot/coconut yogurt with 1 tsp of sunflower seeds and ½ cup of berries

  • ½ small banana with 200ml of whole milk/dairy free milk

  • 2 dark chocolate brazils and 1 tsp of goji berries

  • Cold meat balls/slice of turkey/small sausage with chopped carrot sticks

  • Sliced boiled egg with ½ orange

  • 1 chocolate energy ball.

Now is a great time to get in the kitchen with your family and get them involved in making healthy snacks and treats. Growing food in the garden or asking them to help with the online shop are also great ideas. You can educate older children on how to choose foods that are lower in sugar by helping them to understand food labels. There will never be a better time as now to take charge of your family’s health.


Check out third and final post tomorrow where I share one of my favourite snack recipes, Chocolate Energy Balls!


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© 2020 Dr Amina Davison