01.06.2007

ANATOMY OF A SNACK

Whatactually is a snack? To my mind, it is something quickthat we eat to keep us going until we get to a meal- a quick pit stop and fuel top up. It's absolutelytrue that snacks have a very valuable role in a dailydiet, but personally, I believe we rely on them toomuch. There are two issues to look at here - the overreliance on snacking, and the quality of the snack itself.

Firstly, too many snacks. When you eat a good (meaningnutrient-dense) breakfast, lunch and dinner, snacksimmediately fall into their natural role. But what happensfor many people (especially children) is that the goodnutrient-dense breakfast, lunch or dinner never happens,and they roam from snack to snack in search of nutrientsto keep them going. Snacking is different to havinga lot of small meals, rather than three bigger onesduring the day. You all know (because I say it all thetime) the body has a vast requirement for nutrientsdaily - I'm not saying you need lots of food, you needlots of nutrients, and this is very different. The bodyworks along the lines of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs- it needs nutrients first, before anything else cantake place - things like focus, thinking, walking, doing.Your capacity to function optimally without a good breakfast,lunch and dinner is hugely compromised, and a patternof abundant snacking in search of fuel will only makethings worse. It's especially true in the case of children,and it's absolutely heartbreaking to see large numbersof them (obese and not) starving for nutrients, withlunch boxes filled with snack bars and foods that reallyare not foods at all but chemicals, refined carbohydrateand sugars. It's also heartbreaking to see the ladyin the car next to me at 8am putting on her makeup,drinking a can of "zero" cola drink, and chocbar in the other hand. Snacks are fabulously valuableto top up fuel requirements, but they should never,ever replace the meal itself.

Secondly, the quality of the snack itself. A snack,(as with all food) should be of the very best quality,rich and dense with nutrients, with real ingredientsand as whole as possible. To my mind, there is no rolefor most of the so called snack foods available today.You might like to go crazy from time to time, and eatsome totally unreal food such as chive and onion potatochips (I would have these about twice a year and lovethem) with full knowledge of how absolutely soullessand deficient they are, but that is different to consideringthem a viable alternative for food, daily. So, manycommercial snack foods are falling in through the crackof our perception that it's only a snack, it's not ameal, and thus it's okay. The problem with this, formany people, is that there is no meal, or there is reallyonly one good meal, generally dinner.

I am often asked what I would consider good snacksfor children, and secondly for adults. With regard toadults, firstly concentrate on the meals, and fill inthe gaps with snacks - you will immediately notice thatyou will depend less on snacks, and the never endingsearch for "healthy" snacks will lessen. Thecase of children is different - in the sense that theyhave different times and patterns of eating. My firstpiece of advice regarding snacks for children is similarto that for adults - consider the meals first, but breakthe breakfast, lunch and dinner into smaller parts -a bit now, a bit later. They can graze on their breakfast,lunch, dinner rations at the pace that works for them- this is most relevant for the very young and toddlersand even when at kinder and primary school. The areaof most concern is afternoon tea - for school age childrenand teenagers - this is not the time for a snack, it'sa time for a meal. Both age groups are starving at thistime - for children, this is their natural and besttime to eat dinner (think High Tea in the Harry Potterbooks and movies) and, for teenagers, they will eattwo dinners - one at afternoon tea, and very often anotherone at dinnertime.

It is absolutely foolish to continue to offer thema snack, only to hear "Muuuummmmm, I'm hungry,what's to eat?" And guess what - that "healthy"piece of fruit is not going to do it! If you are concernedthat you won't have a "family meal", I'm notsaying don't include young children at the family mealand table, but making children (generally up to 10)wait to eat until later is crazy. They are tired, andif they have had to snack on food with little nutrientdensity (even though it might be healthy, such as fruit),their body and biochemistry will be stressed to themax, and they pick at their dinner. These children neversettle, their cells are starving for nutrients, andthis continues into the evening bed routine, teenagersincluded. This afternoon tea meal can be small - enoughto sustain, but not so much as to fill up, so they canthen enjoy a little of the family meal (two mini mealsso to speak). As we enter winter, it could be a miniShepherds Pie, bowl of hearty soup with toast, ApplePie with custard, nachos - all good, hearty fare generallyconsidered as dinner food.

GREAT SNACKS FOR ALL AGES
But, as a general handful of great snacks for youngand old, here goes: Muesli bars (homemade), little wholegrainsalads, quality yoghurt with stewed fruits/ drizzleraw honey (don't use the raw honey for children underone), guacamole dip with raw vegies, quality cheese(I love it with apple), nuts and seeds of any descriptionin any form - ground to a paste and spread on wholegrainbread or celery sticks, or eaten as is in your own trialmix, hard boiled egg, spirulina smoothie, homemade wholegraincookies (nuts will increase density), nori roll pieces,bliss balls (dried fruit, nuts, seeds mixed together),black sticky rice with coconut set in little takeoutcontainers, or home made popcorn.

Visit our Recipes pagefor the delicious Muesli Bars - wheat and dairy free.

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