Stop For Fuel: Smart Snacking

Tuckered out mid-afternoon and craving a coffee? It seems staying energized throughout the day is about fuelling with food rather than with stimulants.

“[If] you’re depriving the brain of energy – and by energy I mean fuel from calories and nutrients – then you start feeling like you’re not on top of your game and you can’t think well, and those are the people that tend to drink coffee and smoke more because they’re trying to wake up,” explains registered dietitian Brenda Arychuk. “They haven’t fed themselves, and that’s where fuelling every, say, three to four hours – five hours max – is important.”

Arychuk, who works to educate and assist seniors with nutrition, recommends snacks between meals to maintain energy. She says protein is a “premium source” of fuel that aids in combating age-related muscle loss, which begins in our mid-30s and also helps stabilize blood sugars by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, similar to fibre. Snack bars such as Taste of Nature Organic Fruit and Nut Bars or drinks like Boost, which offers a high-protein option, are quick portable choices.

Read before you eat is Arychuk’s advice, and her rule of thumb is at least five grams of protein per snack to supplement your consumption whereas you’d want 15 grams or more when replacing a meal. Cottage cheese and yogurt are good natural sources of protein, and Danone’s new Silhouette Greek yogurt has 50 calories per 100 gram serving with half of those coming from protein (eight grams) and contains no added sugar. Arychuk warns against caffeinated energy drinks and snacks that can put us over the recommended daily intake of 400 mgs (about three regular cups of brewed coffee) with side-effects that can include insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness, according to Health Canada.

“We have to put emphasis on a good diet and lifestyle, not looking for magic bullets or quick fixes to make us feel better,” she says, “because they don’t work.”