How to snack smarter for better productivity
Do you ever feel like you spend more time thinking about food than you do actually getting anything done?
That used to be the way I’d start every morning. I’d sit down at my desk at 8.30am, and by 9.30am my stomach would already be growling – even though I’d eaten breakfast. By 9.37am I’d be fantasising about my lunch… and by 9.55am I’d be resigned to the fact that I’d never last that long.
I’d want chocolate. I’d have chocolate. I’d feel blissfully happy for half an hour and actually be able to get on with some work… but not long before 11.00am I’d be slumping in my chair, ready to go and get another pick me up.
Cravings are disruptive to your day: they can be all-consuming, and lead you to spending a good chunk of your time focusing more on what you want to be eating/drinking than on what you actually need to be doing. Unhelpful, to say the least.
But there is a solution. Cravings are messages from your brain trying to persuade you to do something to bring your body back into balance. It needs something and wants you to get it. If you can find the missing piece of the puzzle, your brain will relax and give you space to concentrate on your business (at least until lunchtime). Give it the wrong fix and as soon as it realises it’s been cheated, it’ll be shouting even louder than before.
If you’re constantly craving sugar and want a better way to get through the day, then try these four simple changes to your snacks. I promise you’ll quickly see the difference it makes.
1. Eat more healthy fats
If you’ve spent your whole life dieting, I know this message might seem a little terrifying: but hear me out. Some of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs are fat-soluble – that means that unless you eat certain fats, your body can’t absorb those nutrients properly. You could be knocking back vitamins and green juices all day, but if you don’t eat enough fat then you won’t see the benefits. Healthy fats give you energy, help with hormone production, and are pretty essential to you looking and feeling your best.
Eating small amounts of healthy fat with every meal and including them in snacks will not only help satisfy your cravings and boost your energy levels, but they’ll also improve flavours (no more blandness because you’re trying to be ‘good’) and raise the levels of feel-good hormones, so you’ll be much happier as a result.
Healthy fats can be found in foods like coconut, grass fed beef, oily fish, whole eggs, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds – a little goes a long way, and you can easily incorporate these into snacks.
2. Eat more protein
Protein is something that’s often missed out when we’re snacking, but like healthy fats, it’s essential to helping your body work properly. When you miss out protein, you’ll feel low – tired, unfocused, unhappy – and have cravings galore.
Eating protein will keep your blood-sugar balanced, keeping energy levels steady and helping you hold your focus on your work day. You’ll feel much more satisfied after you’ve eaten, so one snack should easily tide you over to your next meal. If weight loss is important to you, then eating more protein has been proven to make things easier: it gives a metabolic boost along with controlling appetite and cravings, so without changing anything else you could start to see a difference.
Lean meats, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes and oats are good sources of protein. If you haven’t already, you can also try Ezekiel bread. It’s made with sprouted grains and legumes, and is much higher in protein than other breads – useful for creating delicious, crave-curbing snacks.
3. Balance sugar with fibre
I’ll level with you here: I don’t live a sugar-free life. It’s unrealistic for me because I’m a social girl and food is part of that. I enjoy chocolate too much to ever give it up completely, and cake at parties is definitely a thing, so when I want to indulge I just make sure I do things in the best way for my body. I add fibre.
Fibre slows down the digestion of sugar, which keeps your blood sugar levels more stable and stop you having that high followed by the crash and the cravings. I’m not suggesting you scoff a Mars bar and follow it with a bowl of wholemeal pasta (you could, but that would rather take the joy out of your snacking experience). If you’re going to have something sweet then try to go for the natural options: fruit is packed with sugar but it’s also full of fibre and other nutrients your body likes, so it’s a good choice and it’s pretty convenient.
If you can’t resist added sugar foods, look for the best options. Flapjacks, chocolate-covered rice cakes, and even cake made with coconut flour (gluten-free often is) are all good options. If you like sweet drinks, enjoy them with a bran muffin or some pear slices and nut butter. Maple syrup, honey and dates are being used more to sweeten cakes, trail mixes and snack bars so you can make your own, or look on ingredients lists to find these in the shops.
If all else fails and you just want a syrupy drink or a warm doughnut, have your ‘snack’ soon after your main meal rather than leaving it until mid-afternoon. Enjoy it as a dessert and your body should keep your blood sugar in balance – no crashes, no cravings, no problem.
4. Be prepared
When you’re busy hustling, calling clients or finalising a project, it can be really tempting to grab the easiest option (and that’s usually the one that’s going to send your cravings into overload). If you prepare for snack-attacks a little in advance, it’s much easier to manage.
Keep things simple by stocking a fruit bowl in your kitchen, or even on your desk. Have mini-smoothie sachets with pre-chopped ingredients ready in the freezer – keep your blender out on the side so you can just open the packet, whizz things up and enjoy. Stock your cupboard with some raw nuts and seeds.
If you’ve got a little more time, when you’re making dinner chop up some raw veggies so you can eat them with a little hummus or nut butter the next day. If you’ve got a couple of minutes and the ingredients to hand, you can whip up a fresh salad, some energy bites or something on toast (click underneath to get the free PDF with some simple recipes to get you started).
Reaching for the right snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon can make a huge difference to the way you feel and how you perform. When you start snacking smarter you’re going to make it easier to stop feeling tempted by choices that you know are dragging your energy down, and quickly change your habits for more productive days.