Singaporeans tend to put in long hours at work, and come mid-afternoon, many also tend to have a snack attack.
When it comes to snacks, the number one thing you must know is that you can have just about any snack, as long as you control the portions. “It is what you eat daily that really matters; the occasional treat is usually acceptable,” says Magdalin Cheong, Chief Dietitian and Senior Manager, Dietetic & Food Services at Changi General Hospital.
Scientists, such as American food psychologist Brian Wansink, have extensively studied how easy it is to overeat. A big problem is mindless eating, and the simplest habits can have a huge impact in terms of weight management.
Keep your snacks at a distance
People eat up to 50 per cent more candy when the candy jar is less than six feet (1.8 m) away from their workstation. It’s not just a matter of temptation. If the jar is filled with a healthy food such as carrots, people will also eat about a third more than if the bowl isn’t within such easy-reaching distance.
Pick snacks that come in small packages
In another study by Wansink, people ate half of the popcorn they were given, no matter if it was a medium- or a jumbo-sized tub. And they ate significantly more M&M’s from a 2-pound (1 kg) bag than from a 1-pound (500 g) bag.
Basically, people will mindlessly eat most of the food or snack that is put in front of them. Even when subjects were given stale, 10-day old popcorn, they still ate 44 per cent more from large buckets than from smaller ones.
Trick your mind
According to a recent study from Yale University, the feeling of satiety can depend on how “indulgent” you assume your snack to be, regardless of the actual calorie content.
Right after having a 600-calorie “indulgent” milkshake, participants’ ghrelin levels (the hormone that drives hunger) dropped significantly, indicating they felt content. Their ghrelin levels stayed flat after drinking a “sensible”, low-calorie milkshake.
Actually, both milkshakes were the same. Mindset meaningfully affects physiological responses to food, say the study authors.
If you can eat healthy food while retaining the feeling that you’re indulging, you’re golden. So, next time you have a sensible snack, try to dream up a sexy name for it, to build that contented feeling.
Top 10 healthy food snacks recommendations
- Vegetable sticks (with hummus, or a tuna or yoghurt dip)
- Nuts and trail mixes
- Low-fat string cheese
- Whole-wheat crackers
- Mixed fresh fruits
- Steamed vegetable pau
- Mantou (steamed bun)
- Pita bread sandwiches
- Instant oats
Other snack suggestions – do mind the quantities
- Seaweed snacks. Go for the less salty brands.
- Granola and cereal bars. While usually healthier than chocolates or very sweet biscuits, these snacks do tend to be high in sugars and calories, warns CGH’s Chief Dietitian, Magdalin Cheong.
- Popcorn (popped in the microwave)
- Rice cakes
- Cream crackers
- Baked chips
- Soy nuts and soy crisps
- Dark chocolate
- Dried fruits. Favour those which are naturally dehydrated. “Most imported dried fruits are preserved with glucose syrup; anything deep fried is not advisable as the calories add up”, says Ms. Cheong.
Check out our extensive list of healthy recipes to get ideas for your next family meal.
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