Fri-YAY! Congrats, You Made It! Meal Planning-Part 1 Snacking
I'm home. Your home. My family's home. Everyone is seemingly at home (and a big thanks to healthcare professionals, caregivers and food providers). As everybody is learning to navigate this huge change to our lives, I wanted to help out how you can improve your new eating environment now that you're home. If you're feeling off track and out of sorts, it's to be expected, so I'm writing this post so you can go into this weekend with some ideas to plan healthier ways to snack for the week to come.
Whether you find yourself eating in response to stress, boredom and isolation; or notice your appetite disappears or becomes erratic, regular, planned eating is the antidote to both scenarios. Even though many think they would love to lose their appetite, it's not as good as it sounds. I'm going to define what regular and planned means, outline how to do it and give specific delicious and nutritious snack ideas.
This is what regular, planned eating means:
Regular means keeping your meals and snacks spaced 3 to 4 hours apart. This corresponds to natural fluctuations in blood sugar, which can help with feeling more energy, less prone to emotional eating and minimizes the risk of overeating after a day of under-eating. Having an urge to eat between 2-4pm is inline with dipping blood sugar. When snacks are planned for, they help promote feelings of wellbeing and productivity while reducing perceived or actual overeating. Keep in mind that feeling powerless to the pantry's sweet and salty treats can be hunger AND whatever uncomfortable emotion you're also trying to alleviate (boredom, stress, anger, fatigue). Those treats work immediately to provide some relief and are often short-lived (hence the reinforcing nature of snack foods and the subsequent regret we sometimes feel). You may find that a planned snack takes the edge off of the physical hunger that can give you enough of a boost to try to manage the emotion in a more effective way.
Planned means being prepared for your hunger by having a variety of food for your meals and snacks.
Here is the structure to do this. Structure is really helpful because it provides a framework of direction and accountability. This can be really helpful when you're home and when back at work.
I introduce this framework to my clients that at first glance you may find too simplistic, but that is the beauty of it! Diet culture has made us believe that being healthy has to be complicated, restricted and uncomfortable. I believe that eating needs to be simple, inclusive and enjoyable, yet we can't expect it to appear out of thin air and we have to be open enough to admit, does our best intentions and knowledge outpace our actual habits and behaviors?
The concepts are:
Eating 3 meals and 1 to 3 snacks/day with at least 3 food groups at meals and typically 2 food groups at snacks. (Food groups are: grain/starch, calcium, fruit/veg, protein, fat and fun/treat food). My next post will explain this in more detail.
Aim at eating a fruit and/or vegetable at meals and snacks.
At the mid-afternoon snack, plan for eating a starch/grain or fruit with a source of protein (think: nuts, nut butters, hardboiled egg) or calcium (cheese, yogurt of choice, milk of choice).
Lastly, to help with overall variety, think back to when you last ate and what you last had.
The 4th concept is what my clients find to be a game changer because it helps adjust intake in real time. This means that if at 2 pm you start to get a hankering, think back to when you last ate. If you didn't eat a particular food group at that time, include it then. This often helps getting in that fruit or veggie you may have missed earlier. Plus it introduces a pause that can stop automatic eating habits and allow you to make a better choice for yourself. It not only helps to include more variety, but will help you consider when you last ate.
Here's a list of snack ideas to get you started. When I'm stressed and tired, I sometimes like when I just get the answers and don't have to think about it myself. The fun/treat food recommendation is included because so often it gets forgotten that treats are part of a healthy diet. When we tell ourselves we shouldn't have something, it reinforces that desire for it. If you really want it, sometimes having it is the best option, but knowing it versus eating it on autopilot are different.
To Your Health + Wellbeing,
12 Satisfying Snacks
Siggi’s yogurt with 12 almonds
1.5 servings Harvest Snap Pea Crisps
5-6 dried plums and 12 almonds
1-1.5 ounces walnuts or almond
2 chopped kiwi, fresh mint, 1.5 tsp chia seeds and ¾ cup plain 0-1% Greek yogurt
1 serving Enlightened Roasted Broad Beans
½ cup cottage cheese with 1 cup berries
2 Wasa Crispbreads with 1 Baby Bell or String Cheese and baby carrots and snap peas
1 apple and Justin’s Peanut Butter squeeze packets
1 cup grapes or blueberries and 1 oz almonds
10 Crunchmaster rice crackers with 2 tbsp hummus and 1 cup veggies
Treat food of choice