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The new rules of healthy snacking

We are officially a nation of snackers, with over a quarter of us stashing nibbles in our desk drawers and handbags, according to new research.  Anna Magee reports on the new rules of healthy snacking

Britain’s women have been revealed as secret snackers and food stashers, with 27 per cent of us keeping snacks in our handbags and 23 per cent in our desk drawers. A staggering 20 per cent of us have snacks on hand in our bedside tables, while 18 per cent have them hidden away in a secret place and five per cent keep them in our wardrobes!  Meanwhile, almost 30 per cent of us admit to snacking more than ever but nearly a third (29%) feel guilty about our snacking choices.

30 per cent of us admit to snacking more than ever

The research, conducted by Healthista on over 2000 readers aged 18 to 68 and commissioned by itsu [grocery] found that 97 per cent of women admitted to snacking every day with crisps (40%), fruit (40%), chocolate (37%), nuts (33%) and biscuits (32%) being the most popular snacking choices.  Three quarters admitted to having at least two snacks a day and nearly one in five opted for as many as four or more snacks a day. Meanwhile, more than one in ten admitted to regularly waking up in the middle of the night for a midnight snack!

The Hangry effect

Even if you’ve not heard there term ‘hangry’, you’ve no doubt felt felt the seething anger that can accompany a hunger-induced meltdown; that temper tantrum that could have been avoided had a snack been on hand to deter the effects of low blood sugar on your mood (crying, irritability and confusion to name a few). According to our survey results, many of us have been there with 30 per cent of respondents admitting to having had a row with their partners, 29 per cent to having made a decision they regretted and 30 per cent to having had a crying fit while hungry.
Crisps were the number one snacking choice amongst Britain’s women

As for what we do eat during those could-eat-my-arm kind of moments, 64 per cent of respondents admitted to being so hungry they ate a whole bag of crisps, while 32 per cent had eaten a whole large block of chocolate, 38 per cent a whole packet of biscuits and 34 per cent a large bag of sweets.  When asked what was the craziest thing they had ever snacked on, one reader replied: ‘A whole Brie and three pitta breads OMG!’, while others admitted: ‘A box of cakes from M&S’, ‘A whole bag of sugar-free sweets’, ‘five bananas’ with one intrepid soul simply saying: ‘insects’. Well they are high in protein.

Bored, stressed, tired – your snacking danger zones

What makes you want to snack most? A staggering 58 per cent of of respondents admitted to being most likely to snack when they were bored, 48 per cent when when they were stressed, 31 per cent during their period and 24 per cent after a night out at the pub.  Over a quarter (29%) were most likely to snack at work while 23% were likely to have a snack attack just as they got in from their evening commute home.

One in ten women have midnight snacks once weekly

Midnight snack anyone? Well, yes.  More than one in 10 of the women surveyed admitted to waking up in the night to have a snack, with eight per cent enjoying a midnight snack at least once a week! But while over half put snacks on their weekly shopping list, 36 per cent said they never plan their snack choices, which could be one of the reasons so many of us get caught hangry and end up eating a family sized bag of crisps. As for the most common times of day for grazing, over a third (36%) were most likely to snack between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner (31%).

7 rules for strategic snacking – and how snacking can even help you lose weight

Healthista asked women what they wanted from their snacks and their top five criteria were tasty (68%), filling (51%), healthy (50%), nutritional (36%) and low in calories (35%).  Indeed, snacking strategically can help control your appetite, keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day so you have fewer hangry moments (and bad decisions) throughout the day.  We’ve put together some guidelines to  help you snack smart.

Time your snacks  Your stomach empties every few hours so have a small, healthy snack planned 2-3 hours after breakfast, lunch and dinner to help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day and control appetite (see below for ideas).

Make strategic swaps   Discover healthy alternatives that give you the same ‘hit’ that your favourite snacks do. For example, if your weakness is chocolate between lunch and dinner, have some high quality 80 or 90% cocoa dark chocolate on hand. One or two squares is more likely to satisfy you, lower in sugar and less more-ish than milk chocolate.

Opt for maximum nutrition per calorie  Over a third of readers wanted their snacks to be low calorie while half wanted them to be healthy too. But low calorie doesn’t always mean healthy and can sometimes mean a proliferation of e-numbers, sugars or artificial sweeteners.

Check the nutritional information and opt for snacks that give you maximum nutritional punch per calorie. For example, instead of crisps which can pack in around 150-200 calorie and little nutritional value, opt for Itsu’s Crispy Seaweed Thins (from supermarkets) which come in at a tiny 22 calories per pack, provide the same salty hit crisps do and deliver 65 per cent of your body’s daily iodine needs (iodine is an essential nutrient for the function of the thyroid gland and research by the British Thyroid Association suggests 70% of women in Britain are iodine deficient).

A serve of seaweed crisps can provide 65% of your daily iodine needs

Drink first, then eat  Many of us think we’re hungry when our bodies are really only craving fluids. Central heating, caffeine consumption,  exercise and a high sugar diet can lead to increased thirst that often masquerades as hunger. Before you snack on anything, drink a large glass of water, and see whether your hunger goes away. If that doesn’t work, try a herbal tea containing a spice such as cinnamon or licorice, which can help satisfy sugar cravings thanks to its slightly sweet taste (try Pukka Licorice and Cinnamon Tea £2.49 from Healthista Shop).

Deactivate your sweet tooth Train yourself away from sweet options such as chocolate and sweets by first replacing sugary treats with low sugar fruits such as berries, pears and apples.  Try also to opt for healthy savoury snacks as these are less likely to come with the more-ish  factor that many sweet treats have. For example, miso soup, made with fermented soya bean paste has what is known as an umami flavour, known as the ‘fifth taste’ in Japanese culture. Its warm, comforting flavour hits a lot of different senses at once, resulting in a substantial and satisfying drink. Itsu’s Miso Soup sachets can be made by simply adding hot water and are only 42 calories a cup. Other umami flavoured foods great for snaking on include edamame beans, shellfish, seaweed and kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage).

Plan, plan and plan again While some 86 per cent of survey respondents claimed to plan out their weekly dinners, only eight per cent planned out their snacks. The fact that so many of us are getting caught short and snacking on things that are us feel guilty, suggests some planning could help here. As you plan your dinners for the week, plan for two snacks a day (at least), working them into the times of day you’re most. likely to want them.  Easy-to-plan-for options include:


  • An apple and 20 almonds
  • Fresh berries and a dollop of plan Greek yoghurt
  • Two rice cakes with tahini and sliced tomato


  • Raw carrot and celery sticks and a tablespoon of houmous
  • One serve seaweed thins
  • A cup instant miso soup


  • Oat cakes and peanut/almond butter
  • Half a banana
  • Half an avocado with cracked pepper and lemon



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