Who among us hasn’t cracked and stopped at the shop for a muffin on the way home from work? We know the importance of afternoon snacks for children and teenagers, but is it the same for adults? Is is still recommended that we take an afternoon snack once we are over the age of 18? Here are a few recommendations from dieticians.
Normally, its better to avoid snacking
Adults with a balanced diet, a stable weight and who take regular exercise do not need to snack, although everyone should indulge themselves from time to time. On a daily basis, having a snack in the afternoon can lead to weight gain, especially if it is very fatty, sweet or salty.
Afternoon snacks: recommended during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman’s nutritional needs increase. This is why it is recommended that pregnant women have a snack comprised of a dairy product, in order to meet their higher calcium needs.
Recommended in the case of intense physical exercise
In order to avoid hypoglycemia, doctors recommend that people who practice intense physical activity at the end of the day (gardening, sport, etc.) should have a snack an hour to an hour and half beforehand.
In this case, the snack should be made up of carbohydrates and water. You can eat one or two home made organic energy balls before commencing your activity, which are rich in magnesium and great for preventing cramps.
In the case of an unbalanced diet
If your diet is not balanced, for example if you skip breakfast or lunch, you may be very hungry by the time you get home, and not have enough motivation to make a healthy meal for yourself. This can lead to eating too much in the evenings, and bingeing on unhealthy foods. Instead, you could have an afternoon snack so as to stop you from over-eating later. However, both the snack and the meal should be light and healthy.
Your snack should consist of complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread or cereals) in order to increase the feeling of fullness.
In the case of food deficiencies
If you are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals (maybe because you are not eating enough fruit and veg with your meals), you may be able to make up for this with your snacks. Regularly eat fruit and vegetables which will provide you with more of the nutrients you need, such as foods that are rich in iron, vitamins, magnesium, protein, etc.
In the case of diabetes
In order to prevent the risk of hypoglycemia, it is recommended that diabetics take a healthy snack which can ensure they maintain stable blood sugar and energy levels. In such cases, and in order to follow an appropriate and tailored diet, it is best to consult a doctor or a dietician.
From the age of 50/60
With age, we tend to eat less because we get full faster, but this carries a risk of malnutrition or nutrient deficiencies, particularly in older people.
An afternoon snack allows people to continue to eat light meals, while ensuring they are getting their essential nutrient requirements for their bodies to function well.
Ideally, a snack should contain:
- a cereal product
- a fruit (for vitamins)
- a source of calcium (a yoghurt or a drink)
- water or a naturally sweet drink