Are you a snacker? Sometimes there are so many conflicting rules and contrasting regulations about healthy eating, that it can end up getting totally confusing. Take snacking as an example. One rule says we should eat little and often, and then something else tells us not to snack between meals. So how so we know what is the best thing for us?

Every one of us is different, with different tastes, habits and routines, not to mention body shape, genetics and health issues, so it is no wonder that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet.

Over my years in practice as a nutritional therapist, I have met people who suit intermittent fasting, others who fare better by eating five or six small meals a day and folk who are best suited to three square meals a day.

Most of us do our best to eat well at breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it can be our snacks that let us down, especially if we are looking for a quick fix and grab something because we are tired or hungry.

Let’s talk snacks

If you need a little something to keep you going mid-morning, or are hit by the mid-afternoon munchies around 3pm, making the right choice can mean the difference between an energy boost and an energy slump.

If you are looking for something to keep you going then high-sugar, processed snacks from the office vending machine are not going to cut it. Instead, think ahead and bring something to work with you. Include a little bit of protein in your snack to fuel you through, and while you are at it, why not add in some fruit or a vegetable to help you reach your five-a-day target?

:: Carrot sticks, chopped peppers, sugar snap peas and some houmous.

:: Two oatcakes with sugar-free peanut butter (Whole Earth, Meridian or Biona are readily available brands).

:: Some flavoured nuts and seeds – look out for paprika toasted seeds or herby nuts for a tasty snack.

:: One or two dried apricots or dates and five or six almonds or brazil nuts.

:: Rye crispbread with cottage cheese, tomato and black pepper

:: A few squares of really dark (at least 70 per cent cocoa) chocolate and a handful of brazil nuts.

:: Natural yoghurt with some fresh berries.

:: Make your own protein pot – a handful of spinach, a couple of cherry tomatoes and a hard boiled egg.

:: A sliced apple with sugar-free nut butter

It’s not what you eat, it’s the way that you eat it

These healthy snacks can add a little nutritional punch to our diet in the middle of the day. Just remember that it is not just what we eat, but how we eat that is important too. Research shows that if we take our time to enjoy our food, slow down and eat mindfully, we are less likely to overeat and more likely to feel satisfied by our grub.

If you snack between meals, it is important that you don’t just eat and run, Like your other meals, sit at a table, put your snack on a plate and take time to enjoy the flavours.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Chocolate, Peanut and Orange Boost Balls (from The Vital Nutrition Cookbook)

4 tblsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy? It’s your call)

2 tblsp agave syrup (optional)

2 tblsp cocoa powder, plus extra for coating

Zest of one orange

1 tblsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Method

Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together with a spoon. Make into about 12-15 balls (depending on the size you want them to be) using your hands. Roll in cocoa powder and enjoy (without feeling guilty).

This blog post first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 16 June 2018.