Ben Marshall

Personally, I am not really a big fan of snacking, I find that most “snack” foods are very calorific and do not actually satisfy me, so for this reason I try and avoid snacking and aim for whole full meals instead.Whether you are trying to slim down or trying to make better choices in your day to day lifestyle, snacking can be the major downfall to your diet being successful.

Whether you are trying to slim down or trying to make better choices in your day to day lifestyle, snacking can be the major downfall to your diet being successful.

Having a “snack” in between meals is by no means a bad thing and can be planned into your day as a very effective way of keeping hunger away and to boost energy. The problem occurs however when people in fact don’t plan snacks and act out of hunger and their “snack” turns into a full on binge.

People tend not to snack on filling foods such as salad or vegetables and instead go for something such as chocolate, crisps or sweets. Normally things such as these are very high in fat and simple sugars, the problem with these types of foods is that they are not voluminous and therefore it is very easy to over eat due to hunger. The outcome of this is that what may have been intended to be a small snack ends up being an extremely calorific meal possibly more than the calories in an average lunch or dinner.

How to avoid snacking?

Gelato

 

 

Choice of food

Your choice of foods will play a huge role in your willingness to snack. What I am referring to here is actually not the choice of snack foods, but the foods you choose to consume for your main meals. If you aim to consume more voluminous foods then not only are you less likely to feel hungry and the need to snack but also if you do snack on voluminous foods then you are less likely to cause damage to your diet.

This picture is a great example of the difference that volume can make and yes both do have the same calories. If you were to break the foods pictured on the right and split them into 3 or 4 meals you would most probably feel very full and not feel the need to snack. If you were to take the foods pictured on the left then you would almost certainly feel the need to snack in-between meals. As most of the foods on the left are sweet or salty the outcome is to crave more of these foods which can be seen to be very calorically dense.

By choosing more wholesome foods in your main meals you can actually reduce the potential to snack.

calorie-density

Availability

Now I am not saying you have to completely cut out these “snacky” foods however for a lot of people they struggle with portion control and cannot stop themselves from only having one, they then come up with a number of excuses and justifications to allow themselves to have another … and another. And you can see where this leads, back to the situation of overeating.

The best way to avoid this is to limit the availability of these foods, if they are not available to you then you cannot eat them. If you know you can’t eat just one or two Oreos then don’t buy them and keep them in your house. You are much less likely to have a craving for Oreos of they are not visible and available to you.

The problem can be for those people who work in an office where biscuits seem to multiply and are on a demand. This is where preparation can come in and if you have an alternative prepared then this can really save you. It doesn’t have to be a stick of celery but aim for something voluminous.

popcorn

Popcorn is a great snack which can fill you up for relatively low calories. Metcalfe’s popcorn has saved me a number of times when I have been craving something sweet but don’t want to bust my diet.

Keep busy

Just the same as comfort eating is a thing, so is boredom eating.

You are more likely to snack when you are bored. The Sad fact is when we don’t have anything stimulating to do our mind wanders and it normally wanders to one of the two basic human instincts. Eating sugary foods releases endorphins into the brain which in turn makes us happy and content, the opposite to the feelings of boredom.

If you are busy you don’t need these feeling and you can even forget the feeling of genuine hunger as your brain is too focused on other things. If you have a productive day planned ahead of you I guarantee you will snack less.

Drink water

Sometimes our need to snack comes from the feeling of hunger, however, this actually isn’t hunger but instead thirst. Consider if you have drunk enough in the day? Before you reach for the chocolate or crisps have a large glass of water and then wait 10 minutes, if you are still hungry after this then the chances are you do need to eat something. However, for most the water will satisfy the hunger signals by filling your stomach.

Coffee

One final option is to use a stimulant such as coffee to blunt your appetite, not only will the hot liquid fill up your stomach but the caffeine kick you receive from the coffee will temporarily  replace the need for energy from calories broken down by food. A coffee will also stimulate you eliminating the boredom aspect of hunger.

So next time you are reaching for your in-between meal snack, have a drink of water and a coffee, find something else to occupy yourself with and aim to make more voluminous food choices.

These are my ways of stopping snacking tarnishing my diet, this allows me to focus on making smart informed food choices which will drive me towards my goal and not reacting to hunger and grabbing some chocolate.

Ben

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Benjamin J Marshall

**Edit: I posted this in 2016 before I went vegan in 2017, I have left this up for accountability but I do not promote the use of any animal products for any reason especially in health.

 

When it comes to the question of protein bars and protein intake in general there are lots of opinions which get thrown around, so let me join the debate and give you my take on protein bars.

Are they a good source of protein?

When should you have them?

Are they useful?

Are they worth the money?

 

Benjamin J Marshall

Firstly let’s define what we are talking about:

There are two types of “Protein bars” the first is a aptly named Protein bar that is because for all intents and  purposes it is a bar made out of a block of protein (usually whey protein), these bars can range from 14g-40g of protein dependent upon size and ingredient make up.

The other type of “Protein bars” are what should be called Meal Replacement bars and these are intended as a convenient substitute for a meal. The problem with these is that sometimes the protein really isn’t that high, ranging between 4g-14g of protein and they tend to have higher carbs and fats than actual Protein bars totalling the same or more calories.

As a general rule you can classify it as a Protein bar if its protein content is the highest macronutrient content. Whereas if it contains comparatively more carbs or high fats and lower protein it is more likely to be a Meal Replacement bar. As the name suggests a meal replacement should be a ….meal replacement and therefore contain the macronutrients you can expect in a small meal, hence the higher fat and carb content, whereas a protein bar should not contain the same high fats and carbs. The best comparison to make is:  if you were to eat only a protein source such as a can of tuna or a chicken breast you would expect a high protein content and a lower fat and carb content. However if you were to eat a small meal such as a chicken sandwich, you would expect the additional fats and carbs and a lower protein content comparatively.

Benjamin J Marshall

Here we have a Meal Replacement bar and a Protein bar both by Profirst: the protein bar has 21g of protein for 199kcal whereas the Meal Replacement contains 14g protein for 210kcal. How does the Meal Replacement bar have more calories if the protein is lower? This is because the carbohydrates are higher with 45g per 100g of bar vs only 31g per bar in the Protein bar. However both these bars are actually very low in calories  and fat only 8-9g respectively whereas some so called “Protein bars” can total over 500 calories with 25- 30g of fat!

The real thing to address here is HOW protein bars are used. What I mean by this is- if you have a sweet tooth and you want to get your “fix” then having a protein bar is probably a much better choice for you than a normal chocolate bar as it will allow you to adhere to your diet.

There is nothing wrong with eating a normal chocolate bar if you can fit it into your diet , the problem only occurs when you then have a craving for another and another and the decision to have one bar can then lead to over consumption of calories.

Benjamin J Marshall

Are they a good source of protein?

Yes and No – Dependent upon what kind of “Protein Bar” you get – some bars “boast” 9g of protein which for a bar of over 300 Calories isn’t very good. You of course can have these but be aware that there will more than likely be other bars which can contain up to 40g of protein.

When should you have them?

There is no time you “should” have a protein bar, they are no better for you than any other source of protein so having a protein bar after a work out will not be better for you than eating a meal with the same amount of protein (and you would probably get more protein from an actual meal). However they are useful if you are busy and traveling as they are small and convenient to carry and don’t go off (although if it’s hot they can melt and get very messy).

Are they Useful?

In short – Yes they are, protein bars and meal replacement bars can be a very effective way to cure hunger pains and tide you over. However as they are small I would not recommend trying to replace your lunch completely with one bar as you will be hungry later on, leading you to need to eat something else and potentially binge snacking and throwing your diet out the window. However if you have a little wait before your next meal then they can be a great and convenient little protein hit.

Are they worth the money?

No -If you are looking for a sweet fix then they probably aren’t worth the money, as most protein bars are around the £2.80 -£4 mark if bought individually in store. Compared to a normal chocolate bar of 65p(ish) for a sugar fix, I would probably say save some money have a little chocolate bar and fit it into your diet. If you are low on protein and need boost your total for the day and a wholesome meal isn’t available then it is an expensive way of getting a 20g of protein but the necessity is up to you.

Yes-However if you can buy them in bulk then you can pick them up for around 75p-£1 mark then yes I would recommend them as they will help get your protein in.

Over all do I recommend them?

If you want to have them and they work into your diet without breaking the bank then go for it, they can be tasty and convenient. But they are not the be-all and end-all of protein source and they tend to be expensive for what they are. If you are going to buy them I would suggest shopping around and ordering them online from places such as – http://www.discount-supplements.co.uk/ as they tend to have good sales and offers which work out cheaper.

But the key here is to enjoy your food which allows you to progress towards your goals and if protein bars can do that then they are worth it to you.

Ben

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