Snack Smart

Everyone enjoys a tasty treat now and then; from an ice cold can of cola to a cheeky Nandos on a trip to York, and in moderation these treats can be included as part of a relatively healthy lifestyle. The problem only occurs when the number of sweet snacks and tempting takeaways begin to become the norm and we “treat” ourselves to the occasional salad instead.

As stress creeps in and time to cook seems scarce, it is all too easy to fall into bad habits and survive off microwave meals, processed products and sweet sugary snacks, because they are not only convenient but they fill a craving we didn’t know we had. We’re all born addicted to sugar and it’s only natural that our bodies crave the sweet, fatty foods that are less regulated than Willy Wonka’s infamous factory. The problem is that what we actively crave and what we need are two completely different things. We all know that as an adult we could have ice cream for breakfast every day if we wanted to, and yet we don’t. Every meal could be cake or cookies and every morning we could build a pillow fort to defend our beds from the world outside… but I only do that on a weekend.

As we grow older a sense of responsibility for ourselves and those in our care is laid on our shoulders and we learn to say no. No is powerful. No gives us some control. But almost every ‘no’ also comes with a ‘why’? Why shouldn’t I eat ice cream for breakfast? Why shouldn’t I live off of cake and cola? Why do I have to get up and go to work? And the answer is… Because! Because this can be a little confusing, let’s go down a common line of questioning that definitely isn’t based on a real conversation I’ve had several times.

Why shouldn’t I have ice cream for breakfast?

Because it’s full of sugar and cheap fats that are bad for you and will make you feel sick, then you’ll crash.

Why?

Because processed sugar rich foods are anti-nutritious.

Why will they make me feel sick?

Because ice cream doesn’t have the nutrients you need to function properly, so if you eat too much your body will use up what it has and you will feel sick.

Why will I crash?

Because the sugar has released too much energy too quickly and causes an insulin spike, causing you to crash and get hungry again.

So can I have a can of coke instead?

No, it does the same thing but in liquid form.

But this can says its diet so it must be better right?

No, the stuff they use to replace the sugar is often worse for you.

Why?

Some of them cause the insulin spike without having any energy to remove making you crash quicker. Others give you diarrhoea or bad headaches.

So what can I have?

How about a nice cup of tea or a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice?

On the surface nutrition appears to be a big, scary subject and the first thing that comes to mind are celebrity diets or the thought of having to live the rest of your life eating nothing but salad, kale and egg whites. In reality, nutrition is just a little common sense, knowing when to say no to yourself and having a backup plan for those days when Murphy decides to step in and jump up and down on everything within his reach.

Here are five tips to improve your diet and your health without breaking the bank.

Eat a proper breakfast

No matter what time it is, the first meal of the day is always breakfast. There’s a whole blog related to this subject on our website,  but in short, almost all breakfast cereals are the nutritional equivalent of cardboard at best and at worst, you are basically eating ice cream for breakfast. Those bacon lovers amongst you can rejoice as thankfully a modest fry up and a piece of fruit are the perfect recipe to get you through to lunch without falling foul of cravings and have plenty of energy to spare.

Your body doesn’t care if it’s frozen veg

When we hear that we need to eat more fruit and veg we inwardly wince as we imagine the ordered rows of seasonal vegetables that line the supermarket shelves and are likely doomed to rot away at the back of our fridge as we literally throw away our hard earned money. Instead, fill your freezer with frozen vegetables because, despite what you think, frozen vegetables is usually more nutritious than the stuff they leave out in the open, which may look “fresh” but technically isn’t. Those rows of perfectly aligned apples and barrels of bananas, columns of capsicums etc. are usually a few months old by the time they reach our plates and the nutrients within have begun to break down. However, with frozen vegetables, those same nutrients have been locked in since harvest as the freezing process stops them from breaking down, so you’ll get more of the good stuff from a smaller portion.

Eat proper chocolate

I don’t know about you, but chocolate is definitely my Achilles Heel, and although no chocolate is truly healthy, if you want to indulge your dark desires, you may as well eat the real thing rather than grab any old bar off the super market shelf. In cheap chocolate, they skim off the ingredients such as the cocoa butter that are good for your mental health and replace them with inexpensive oils and processed sugars that are not only worse for you, but make their products even more addictive than they were before.

Drink less pop

Pop is one of my pet peeves as it tastes so much better than it has any right to. Yet, the sweet nectar is not only stupidly addictive (yes, even the diet stuff), but also makes you thirsty again more quickly than a glass of water or cup of tea. I’ve already mentioned that pop causes an insulin spike, but did you know that if you exercise regularly and treat yourself to a can of pop at the end of a workout you’ve pretty much undone all your hard work? That dreaded insulin spike I keep mentioning has a two pronged effects on the body; firstly, it stops you from metabolising (burning) fat as an energy source and secondly, it actively causes your fat cells to grow by pushing all the excess sugar into them.

Know your weaknesses

Part of my job is teaching nutrition for a living, but besides general advice, everything else is down to you, as you know yourself the best. If you know it’s going to be a stressful day, plan ahead and have something that requires fairly little effort to cook waiting for you at home. Long day? Have a bigger breakfast and take a few pre-made healthy snacks with you, such as a banana or some nuts. Nutrition is about knowing yourself, knowing your weaknesses and knowing how to work around them. Perfect people don’t exist and everyone has a bad day. The difference between succeeding and failing is often being able to get back up and try again when you’ve made a mistake, and the same goes for nutrition. Find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be willing to say “that doesn’t work for me” so I’ll do this other thing instead.

Some final advice

My final piece of advice applies to everything you do. Support one another. We’re social animals and by working together, everything becomes easier. We’re so social that fossil records show our ancestors looking after the elderly, maimed and disabled, even when there was no discernible benefit to the group. Even through the hardest points of history, this principle still stands today. By caring for one another, talking with one another and sharing the burden, you will thrive no matter your goal, and together we can ensure that we all have happy futures waiting for us.

This blog post was written by Simon Town, the Managing Director of Roots of Yggdrasil.

To find out more about what they do, please visit www.rootsofyggdrasil.co.uk

Please note that Happy Futures Support Specialists Ltd does not accept responsibility for any impact or outcome of blog nor will we give any advice, diagnose or treat any health concerns or conditions. This blog is designed for informational purposes only. If you suspect you may have any health concerns or are experiencing symptoms related to any health condition, please speak to your GP directly.

One thought on “Snack Smart

  1. Thank you – very helpful information on how to stay healthy.

    My favourite veg is broccoli and my favourite fruit is… anything!

    Today I’ve had some juicy blueberries as a snack.

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