Many people believe that eating snacks will cause them to gain weight but in reality the opposite is true. It’s all about what you snack on that counts. Food contains a variety of nutrients that play specific roles in the body. For example protein foods like meat, fish, eggs and dairy products help the body to make strong muscles and smart brains. Fats (contrary to popular belief is not an ‘F’ word) are essential in small amounts and specific types, e.g. those fats found in nuts, seeds and oily fish like salmon and sardines.

Now here comes the tricky bit, carbohydrates. Carbohydrate foods provide the body with energy; energy to power muscles and the brain. Carbohydrates are found in starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as well as fruits and vegetables. These foods break down into glucose which is a fancy name for sugar. And it’s the sugar that provides the energy for the body.

The trick to having bags of energy and a slim figure is to eat the right amounts of protein, fats and carbohydrates – AND the right kind of carbohydrates. Some carbs like rice, bread, potatoes and pasta convert to sugar very quickly, hence they’re called fast releasing carbohydrates. While fruit and vegetables are slow releasing. The body likes the amount of glucose in the blood to be very constant; it doesn’t like it when sugar levels are too high or too low. So when carbohydrates release sugar faster than the body can use it, there’s a big spike of sugar in the blood. The body in an attempt to reduce the blood sugar level, converts the sugar to fat (that’s right fat!) and then there’s too little sugar in the body resulting in a dip in energy, often experienced as mid morning and mid afternoon slumps, and a craving for sweets, sugar and stimulants.

So the best way to control weight and maintain even energy levels is to eat slow releasing carbohydrates like fruit and vegetables. Combine these foods with some protein and a small amount of the important fats at regular intervals during the day and sugar levels will remain constant and the body won’t feel the need to store the excess sugar as fat.

Some top tips:

Always eat breakfast

  • Eat small frequent meals and snacks, aim for 6 a day: breakfast, mid morning, lunch, mid afternoon, evening meal and an evening snack
  • Combine protein with carbohydrates to help stabilise blood sugar levels
  • Reduce caffeine found in coffee, tea and cola drinks. These stimulants affect blood sugar levels.
  • Reduce alcohol as this is similar to sugar and can upset blood sugar balance.
  • Avoid adding sugar or honey to foods and drinks.
  • Avoid or reduce cigarettes
  • Eat fresh fruit rather than dried as dried fruit is very concentrated sugar
  • Eat foods high in fibre including green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, and lentils
  • Exercise! When there’s an elevated level of sugar in the blood, exercise to convert the sugar to energy, otherwise the body will be tempted to store the excess sugar as fat.

Sample meals and snacks

  • Smoothie with fresh fruit, fruit juice plus dairy or soya yoghurt
  • An egg on whole meal toast
  • A bowl of porridge with natural dairy or soya yoghurt
  • Grilled haddock or kipper on whole rye toast
  • Chicken, fish or cheese with salad sandwich on wholemeal bread
  • Tuna and brown rice salad
  • Wholemeal pasta with chicken or fish sauce
  • Crudités with houmous
  • Rye crispbread with chicken, tuna or tofu
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts) and seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin) with a piece of fruit

Ideal plate: when having a meal aim for the following ratio of protein, starchy carbohydrates and vegetables. This helps to maintain even blood sugar levels and aids in weight control.

25% Protein: meat, fish, beans, nuts and dairy products
25% Starches: potato, bread, rice
50% Vegetables and Salads