Snacks have the ability curb cravings, fill nutritional gaps, pump us with energy, increase our metabolisms, stabilize our blood sugar levels and put us in a great mood! They help fuel our workouts, re-fuel us afterwards and prepare us for a great sleep... All of these benefits help our bodies to operate at their most efficient level, and to shed excess body fat and support lean muscle. So, it's worth learning how to snack right! (Bear in mind, different things work for different individuals - most of my posts will apply to the general public, however personal trainers' jobs are to cater to individual needs and schedules.)

Snack should be about 150-250 calories, and they are used to bridge your meals (most people should be eating every 3 hours). This keeps your insulin levels released steadily, and wards off hunger, cravings, and blood sugar highs and lows. Remember that when insulin levels are jumping all over the place, the body stores more fat. Also, with insulin levels up and down, energy levels really suffer and this always leads us reaching for the wrong foods.

Another important thing to remember about snacks is making sure each one is balanced. You want a snack that offers all three of the macronutrients: protein, carbs and fats. Vegetables and fruits are some of the best quality carbohydrates, and snacks are a great way to add in more of these vitamin/nutrient rich foods to deliver vitality, energy and illness prevention.

BALANCED SNACKS: An apple (red delicious is best) and 8-10 raw almonds A banana and 6 walnuts 1 cup of raw broccoli and 1 oz. of lowfat cheese 1 cup of carrots and 2 tbsp of hummus Tuna roll-ups (3-4 tbsp of tuna salad rolled in romaine leaves) Small bowl of cereal (choose 5g sugar per serving) with nonfat almond milk An orange and a hard boiled egg Half a sandwich (lots of veg, whole grain bread) A skim/almond milk latte and a piece of biscotti (this would be one to fight a craving!) 2 ryvita crackers with almond butter Spinach and papaya smoothie, with a dollop of plain yogurt ½ cup of greek, nonfat yogurt with ½ cup of blueberries 1 packet of oatmeal with 1 tsp of peanut butter and ¼ cup of almond milk 3 oz. of chicken, 2 celery stalks and 1 tbsp hummus 3 dates, 5 brazil nuts and a pear

Some of these foods you can keep on you all the time (like apples and almonds) so that you're never stuck starving anywhere, resorting to poor and energy-zapping choices. The trick is to always be prepared and to prevent yourself from getting hungry. Pack your bag every morning with emergency foods, and staying on track will be easier than you ever thought possible.

If you have questions about your favourite snacks, send them to Jessica Manning, Personal Trainer, Toronto: getfit@jessicamanning.com

Your days are about to get a lot better....

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