We should eat five meals a day: besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is healthy to eat a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Splitting up food intake throughout the day helps the metabolism to function better; it adds that extra bit of energy useful before lunch or dinner, reducing the feeling of hunger before main meals, giving us the possibility to eat the right quantity without putting on weight. This is what makes mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks a meal not only for children and adolescents, but also for adults.
Keeping the metabolism active has clear advantages:
> It distributes energy (calories) better throughout the day.
> It keeps glycemic levels (and consequently insulin) steadier.
> We aren’t excessively hungry at lunch and dinner.
According to the principles of correct nutrition, a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack should supply 5-10% of total daily energy, on average 100-200 kcal.
The calories should be divided as follows during the day:
20& > Breakfast;
10% > Mid-morning snack;
35% > Lunch;
10% > Mid-afternoon snack;
25 % > Dinner.
If you eat more calories at main meals, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks should be lighter and vice versa.
Take a break!
Having a snack is good for the metabolism, but taking a break from work is good for the brain.
Let’s stop sitting in front of the PC nibbling on cookies or snacks with one hand and typing with the other. If we really want to enjoy our mid-morning snack, it is better to stop, sit down wherever we are, whether in the office or at the park on a bench.
Taking a break means relaxing, really stopping what we were doing; this makes a mid-afternoon snack an excellent way to reduce stress, to increase the ability to concentrate improving our performance for the rest of the morning or afternoon.
A tasty mid-afternoon snack
So that the snack can be good for us, we have to be choosy about what we eat: having a mid-afternoon snack does not give us the right to simply gobble up anything that is within arm’s reach respecting only the calories we eat. It is better to be organized and know what we are eating.
It is best to avoid pre-packed cakes, bars and packaged snacks: they often provide more calories than what we need (on average a pre-packaged cake weighs 40g and supplies from 90 to 220 kcal, most of these are from fats and simple sugars). Crisps, chocolate creams and various cakes, which are not home-made, are also strongly discouraged.
If you choose hazelnut creams and a slice of bread, read the label and choose those with higher hazelnut content.
On average, these creams contain from 6 to 45% hazelnuts. They are a high calorie food but they are also healthy because they contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The lower the hazelnut percentage, the higher the content in various vegetable fats. Remember that a simple traditional cookie (flour, butter, eggs) supplies approx. 50 Kcal, and that a cream puff contains approx. 120.
What can we eat?
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are an excellent opportunity to eat fruit.
The 3 daily fruits recommended in order to supply vitamins, minerals and fiber can be eaten at any time: before and after main meals, or as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Nuts are an excellent source of energy: 2 walnuts and a few crackers are all it takes for a good supply of calories. It is also a good habit to eat a little protein.
A low fat yogurt (125g) or partially skimmed yogurt and fresh fruit make an ideal mid-afternoon snack; add a little whole grain cereal to increase the Kcal. A small roll with ham or cheese and a piece of fruit, a slice of home-made low fat savory cake, even a banana by itself is an excellent food to fill us up.
It is also important to drink plenty of water to keep ourselves well-hydrated, especially during summer and to feel fuller.
The contents of this article are in accordance with the parameters set out by the European Food Safety Authority - EFSA.