The fourth week of coronavirus lockdown is in full swing and as the boredom really starts to kick in, we can’t help but reach for the sugary snacks.
Spending nearly all our time at home has lead to us constantly grazing in a bid to relieve some of the everyday sameness of life under social distancing rules.
But not all snacks are created equal and while the lure of comfort food is Oh. So. Strong. right now, constantly chowing down on carby, sugary treats could be playing havoc with our health, both physical and mental.
“With many of us now self-isolating from home, we are closer to the cupboards and the fridge than ever before and the temptation is strong to reach out for those easy to grab and quick to eat snacks such as biscuits, crisps and bars of chocolate,” explains Katie Russell, nutritionist at Lyvit.
“The problem with a lot of these processed snacks is that they can be very high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and at a time when many of us will be confined indoors and exercising less, indulging too much will have a negative effect on both body and mind.
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“The refined carbohydrates in a lot of these snacks will have low nutritional value but could raise triglyceride levels in the blood which could increase cholesterol and lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease and weight gain.”
Plus the high sugar levels, especially in many soft drinks and sweets can also increase the risk of tooth decay.
Of course now more than ever we need to be eating foods that keep our immune system in check too.
“We’re seeing many people reporting boredom-eating during the lockdown. But overeating is risky. Good nutrition is needed more than ever, when our immune system may need to fight back,” explains Ms Alex Ruani, UCL Doctoral Researcher and Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy.
“The worst foods to snack on are those which provide ‘empty calories’. That is, foods that are micronutrient-poor and very low in essential vitamins and minerals – usually sugary and processed fatty foods like cakes, biscuits, crisps, milk chocolate, ice cream, and pastries.”
But it seems we are looking to up our lockdown snack game, with research by Flawless.org revealing an 110% increase in Google searches related to ‘healthy snacks.’
But switching up your snacks is actually not that difficult.
Healthy snacks to reach for during lockdown
Fruit and vegetables crudités
We know it sounds like an obvious one but we bet you a pack of hobnobs, fruit and veg has slipped down your must-eat list right now, but lockdown or no lockdown it is important to keep up your 5 a day.
“Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and enzymes all of which we need - especially during times of stress!” explains Rosie Millen aka Miss Nutritionist.
“So grab an apple, chuck some ready chopped mango in a smoothie or chop up some celery and dip it in nut butter. Anything to get these powerhouses of nutrients in.”
Millen says the beauty of making up a protein smoothie is that you can tailor them to your taste and nutritional needs. Plus they’re amazingly quick and simple to make. “Add in avocado, spinach, frozen fruit, yoghurt, oats, dates, protein powder etc and you’ve got a hearty snack that’s packed full of foods that either give you energy or calm you.”
Mixed nuts (unsalted)
Reaching for the crisps when you get a hunger pang? Try switching for a pack of unsalted nuts instead. “Mixed nuts are a really nutritious snack that contain a good balance of protein, healthy fat and fibre, plus they are perfect for grazing on throughout the day,” Russell explains.
Homemade energy balls
Bored of banana bread? Why not whizz up some homemade energy ball for a healthy alternative. “My favourite ones are date and nut balls where you just blitz up so dates, cashew nuts and maca powder and roll them into balls,” says Millen.
“Maca is a Peruvian root which helps to support the adrenal glands by balancing the stress hormones.”
Struggling to sleep during coronavirus lockdown? Could be time to switch your cup of rosie for a soothing sip of camomile. “Most people are aware that chamomile is very calming on the body. This is because is contains an antioxidant called apigenin. It is thought that apigenin helps to reduce anxiety and initiate sleep,” explains Millen.
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Leafy green vegetables
Mood taken a dip during self-isolation? Upping your leafy veg intake could help bring it back up. “An adequate intake of B-vitamins, folate, B-6, and B-12 are thought to be protective against depression,” explains Dr Rachel V. Gow registered nutritionist and founder of Nutritious Minds.
“So, eating B-vitamin rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, broccoli), wholegrains (e.g., brown rice, millet), as well as eggs, sunflower seeds, almonds, beans and lentils provide a sure fire way to enhance mood.
Dr Gow says B vitamins also help facilitate the synthesis of neurotransmitters implicated in mood regulation such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine so it’s a good idea to keep snacking on foods containing them.
Kale smoothie anyone?
Fat free yoghurts
Tempting as that tub of ice-cream may seem, your gut will thank you if you swap it for a fat-free yoghurt. And according to Ms Ruani probiotic-rich foods are also shown to have beneficial effects on the regulation of hunger-supressing hormones GLP-1 and PYY.
Other suggestions of snacks that will give you a pro-biotic hit are kefir, cottage cheese or soft cheese; vegan and lactose-free options are tempeh, miso, sourdough bread, fermented cabbage or pickles.
Ms Ruani says the added benefit of these alternatives is that they are also low-glycaemic, meaning that they cause a slow sugar release into your bloodstream, which helps maintain energy and sustained focus, as opposed to making you feel lethargic or sleepy in the middle of the day.
Cucumber slices with hummus
Ms Ruani says fibre-rich foods, such as cucumber slices with hummus and porridge oat flakes, are not only physically filling but also help produce hunger-supressing short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate in the gut.