In a recent study of 4,000 people from the UK, Spain, Poland, Italy, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden and Greece, only 15% of Britons were found to snack healthily compared with 27% in Spain and 25% in Greece.
Investigators from the yoghurt brand, Fruyo found that 41% of us tend to choose crisps, chocolate, cakes or cookies to snack on in between meals, while Mediterranean nations will nibble on fruit and yoghurt.
Snacking is important for keeping blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day, yet making unhealthy choices can have the opposite effect. Choosing foods high in calories, fat and sugar will not fill you up and will provide little nutrition.
The key is to plan ahead and ensure you have healthy snacks to hand whenever you feel hungry. Below is a quick guide to choosing the right foods when snack o’clock strikes:
Many of us prefer to skip breakfast, but it is important to try and eat something first thing to kick-start your metabolism and ensure you avoid the biscuit barrel and local café once you get to work.
A pot of low-fat yoghurt with some fruit is a good option, or even a slice of wholemeal toast with peanut butter.
Mid morning you should stick to a protein-rich snack of around 100-200 calories to help you stay satisfied until lunch. Try carrot sticks and reduced fat hummus, a low-sugar protein bar or a handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Studies have shown the most popular time to snack in the UK is exactly 3.04pm. Since eating lunch, our sugar levels have dropped and we are more tempted to snack on unhealthy foods for a quick sugar fix.
Choose a filling snack such as low-fat Greek yoghurt or a couple of oatcakes with low-fat soft cheese to combat these cravings.
For those with a sweet-tooth, you may want to consider a handful of dried fruit such as apricots. These may be high in sugar, but keeping your portion small will ensure you get a good dose of fibre and potassium which helps to control blood pressure.
Many of us are oblivious to our snacking habits, and it is particularly easy to munch on leftovers in the fridge or a couple of biscuits from the tin whilst we’re preparing or waiting for dinner.
Low-calorie nibbles will satisfy your hunger cravings before dinner, so cut up some crudités such as cucumber, carrots and celery to dip in low-fat salsa, or nibble on a couple of olives.
Nearly a third of us snack in the evening, so ensure your evening meal is filling and nutritious to ensure you are not tempted to raid the cupboard afterwards.
If you are hungry, keep your snacks light and opt for carbohydrates, such as plain popcorn, whole grain toast with a low-fat topping or wholegrain cereal. Carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin, one of the chemicals that helps you to feel relaxed, and this will help to aid peaceful sleep.