Snacking – being prepared for hunger pangs.

Whether it’s for work or school, packing a lunchbox can be a daunting task. Mornings tend to be rushed but once hunger sets in you’ll be thankful that you thought ahead to pack something to keep you going. The reason it is so difficult to pack a lunchbox is that since you’re doing it so often, you will tend to run out of ideas. Eating the same or similar thing day in and day out will quickly become boring and when that happens you’re quite likely to reach out for something unhealthy that will tire you out.

For this reason, it’s not only diabetics that need to keep their blood levels in check. Opt for foods with a low glycemic index (low impact on blood sugar levels) that provide a steady release of energy to keep you productive and efficient throughout the day. Some adjustments might take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll be glad that you made these changes.

Don’t stay hungry! Pack a number of smaller snacks if need be, for that mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick me up in between meals. This will stop you from reaching out to the biscuit tin, chocolate bars or crisps too often. Examples of this are: nuts especially walnuts and almonds, roasted seeds, cubes of cheese, fresh fruit or vegetables e.g. cherries, grapes, avocado, green peppers. A handful of either of these is enough to stave off hunger until meal times.

Concentrate on what you’re eating. If possible, try not to work through your break whilst stuffing mouthfuls of food. Give your food time and focus. This will not only leave you feeling more satisfied but taking your time will avoid indigestion and that dreaded bloated feeling too.

Be prepared. Before going to the supermarket, take a few minutes to prepare a list of foods and snacks you will need throughout the week. Buy a few fail-safe options for when you’re running short of time or patience e.g. eggs, nuts, seeds, yoghurt, frozen vegetables, cans of beans and cheese (you will find these in individual portions to make your life even easier). Products in re-sealable packaging or smaller portions may be ideal for you and your family.

Choose wisely – read labels and check the contents of your products before buying. This will take a bit of time on your first few trips but you will quickly get used to making better choices once you’re aware of what contains what. Don’t be fooled by products pretending to be healthy. Even plain yoghurt can be high in sugar content, fooling you into thinking that you’re making a healthy choice when you’re not. Opt for Greek yoghurt if you’re after a low glycemic load when you’re snacking.

Leftovers – I often plan leftovers. When cooking your dinner, add an extra portion and then set it aside as soon as your meal is cooked. If you immediately remove this portion, you will not be tempted to consume more just because it is available. This works very well with certain foods that can be cut up into portions e.g. a frittata and even others that can be rendered more interesting (or so to speak ‘freshened up’) easily with the addition of a few other ingredients. If you’re not planning to consume it the next day, opt for freezing if this is suitable for the food you have just made. An example of this is boiling an extra egg or more quinoa than you will consume during that meal. Be aware of which foods can be stored in the fridge for a few days and which others need to be consumed preferably the next day.

Be clever about storing your foods. If you’re making a salad and would like to add a dressing, pack this separately in a small jar and add it just before eating. This will stop the salad from becoming soggy. You may even want to assemble your snack at the work place, to keep flavours fresh. Invest in a couple of good quality containers that seal well and may be used in the microwave; buy some in different sizes and perhaps a couple with various compartments. This will be of great help when packing different snacks. As much as possible you may want to keep food in airtight containers or bags. Keep your food cool, preferably refrigerated and sealed tightly, especially in the hotter months.

Give yourself a break every now and then. Watching what you eat to keep energy levels high does not mean that you miss out on a work mate’s birthday cake or a treat every now and then. The trick is to make sure that you don’t overdo it (one small slice of cake or two biscuits is more than enough to satisfy your craving) and that it doesn’t become a mindless habit. However, always saying no will leave you dissatisfied and maybe frustrated. Moderation is key in avoiding major pitfalls and staying happy. Listen to your body, be aware of how you’re feeling after consuming your packed lunch and learn about what your body is telling you. Bon appétit!