Today, instead of answering a specific question (or a few) I thought I’d respond to requests that have come in via email for snack suggestions. It seems like the majority of people have their main meals pretty well down pat, but struggle for snack ideas.
Particularly in a low metabolic state (indicated by low waking body temperature – <36.6ºC/97.8ºF – and pulse outside of normal range), snacks can be useful for balancing blood sugar between meals, minimising the release the release of stress hormones and increasing thyroid. When metabolism is optimal, you may find that you are able to go between main meals without signs of low blood sugar (cravings, low energy, irritability, headaches, anxiety, frequent urination, etc).
I would encourage you, however, to avoid relying on countless snacks all day and ensure you get in proper 3x squares. Regular, hearty and well-balanced meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) encourage mindful eating, better digestion and greater post-prandial satiety. Even better, if you can put a little
A few of the below ideas were favourites from my previous snacky post (fruit + cheese will never get old!), some are updated and tweaked, and some are new. Here goes…
Ripe fruit + cheese. Nutrient-dense and satiating, the fruit and cheese combo provides a the perfect balance of natural sugar, salt, saturated fat and protein (with calcium, as a bonus) to curb the release of inflammatory stress hormones, mediate blood sugars and optimize metabolism by supporting good thyroid health. There’s a reason it’s my favourite! Try grapes + cheddar, watermelon + feta, pineapple + cottage cheese, cherries + ricotta, ripe figs + blue cheese, pear + parmesan or stone fruit + bocconcini.
A boiled egg + fruit. Eggs provide a wealth of hard-to-get nutrients, including choline for proper fat assimilation and cholesterol metabolism, and preformed vitamin A required for the synthesis of protective hormones such as progesterone, proper cellular differentiation, immune function, skin, hair, and eye health. In a low metabolic state, liver conversion of pre-vitamin A, betacarotene (from carrots, sweet potatoes, etc), to true vitamin A is poor, so it’s important to consume preformed vitamin A from animal sources like eggs, liver and dairy. Salt your egg well and eat it alongside a piece of ripe fruit or a glass of fresh orange juice (eating protein alone will only perpetuate low blood sugar and increase the release of stress hormones).
Dark chocolate. Go for it. Nibbling on a few squares of dark chocolate (20-35g) between meals can help keep blood sugars in good range, supply the body with pro-thyroid minerals such as magnesium, healthy saturated fat and digestible sugar. See here for recommended brands or make your own coconut oil chocolate with sea salt and chilli.
Orange juice + hydolyzed gelatin. Of course, I’ve banged on about the benefits of consuming gelatin before (too many times to count now!). The natural sugars in fresh orange juice plus glycine-rich gelatin is a metabolism-supporting, stress-busting snack – even more so if a pinch of salt is added to the mix (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). I often suggest this concoction for use pre- and post-exercise (and sometimes even during), to immediately draw down cortisol, which naturally rises during a work out and can inhibit metabolism if not abated with a little sugar and salt. For proper hydration, these two nutrients (sodium and simple sugar) are essential – salted juice is actually more hydrating than guzzling lots of plain water (which many people tend to overdo).
Leftovers. A small piece of fish with a few slices of cooked sweet potato, a little leftover meat and root veg, home-made curry, stir-fry, root vegetable soup, etc. Small servings of leftovers from home-cooked meals can make for the most satisfying and nutritious snacks, and tend to be fairly well-balanced options in terms of providing good amounts of all your macronutrients.
Greek yoghurt + honey. A bowl of high quality (full-fat) Greek yoghurt topped with a drizzle of raw honey or maple syrup is super easy and delicious. Add cinnamon or ground nutmeg for spice.
Olives. Choose quality olives preserved in extra virgin olive oil or brine (never canola or sunflower oil, or any other cheap polyunsaturated oil). Try plain Kalamatas or large green olives stuffed with sheep’s milk feta, eaten alongside a few handfuls of raw capsicum, carrot sticks and/or slices of ripe pear.
Frittata. Sliced potato with rosemary, zucchini and roast tomatoes is a favourite combination of mine in an egg frittata or Spanish tortilla. It’s all too easy to cook up a big frittata on the weekend and cut it into slices ready to go for meals and snacks during the week. You can even freeze the portions and defrost/reheat them as you need – great served cold or warm.
Bone broth. A cup of well-prepared bone broth (stock) makes a brilliant snack and an easy way to get glycine into your diet. Add some sweet cooked beets, sea salt and fresh herbs – it will win you over. Read more on the benefits of bone stock here.
Macadamia nuts. I’m not a fan of nuts due to their high polyunsaturated fat content and poor digestibility (read all about it in this post), but our own Aussie macadamias are a better choice than all other nuts as they are uniquely high in monounsaturated fat and low in PUFA. For the sweet-toothed among us, they’re lovely dipped in a little melted and salted dark chocolate (allow to cool on a sheet of baking paper) – consider yourself warned though, they’re easy to overindulge on!
A small baked potato. Bake well-seasoned sweet or white potatoes for at least 40 minutes (I bake extras, whenever I’m cooking them) and enjoy hot or cold with a dollop of natural yoghurt or a little grated cheese and a sprinkling of herbs, dried chilli and spices – whichever tickle your fancy. Potatoes are incredibly satiating and an excellent thermogenic food, great for boosting core body temperature and metabolic rate.
Potato pancakes. On the topic of the humble spud, my potato pancakes provide a nice balance of warming starch, protein (egg – in the pancake batter) and salt. Keep a cooked batch or leftovers in the fridge and enjoy the pancakes plain as a quick snack (they’re equally good served hot or cold).
Pâté. Liver is arguably the most nutrient-dense food available to us and can be used as a potent multimineral and multivitamin ‘supplement’. Albeit, liver can be a little hard to stomach for the initiated, so pâté is a brilliant way to get in this true superfood. Choose a quality pâté (preferably organic) made with natural butter, herbs and salt, and serve with some vegetable crudités or a slice of proper sourdough. If you’re up for making your own, simply panfry onions and liver until browned, then blend with salt, fresh herbs and butter.
Coconut macaroons. Store-bought varieties can contain lots of additives, but macaroons really easy to make yourself just by combining coconut flakes or desiccated coconut, a few spoons of honey and good quality egg white/s (save the yolks for a smoothie or dessert – don’t chuck those beauties!) and baking in a low-heat oven until firm and chewy.
Sushi. An easy takeaway option if you’re on-the-fly. I tend to go for raw tuna (low in polyunsaturated fatty acids) or cooked prawns (shellfish is a great source of pro-thyroid micronutrients and protein), nicely balanced with easily-digested starch in the form of white rice. You could do the same combination in a fresh (not fried) Vietnamese rice paper roll if preferred.
A fruit smoothie. Blend fresh fruit with milk/goat's milk/yoghurt/coconut milk and a little ice. If you’re game, add an egg yolk for the extra fat-soluble nutrients and protein, or stick with traditional add-ins like cocoa powder, cinnamon, untreated honey or fresh mint.
Sweet potato chips. Completely addictive. Simply cut a sweet potato into wedges or thin discs and shallow fry in a little butter or coconut oil, before draining on paper towel and tossing with herbs or cinnamon and sea salt. Serve with a little pure sour cream if you like. Alternatively, cut into thick-cut chips or wedges, rub with a little coconut oil or beaten egg, season well and bake in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes until crisp.
An all-natural protein shake (egg flip). Infinitely better for you than any store-bought protein powder, shake or bar, nutrient-rich and completely delicious. See this post for the recipe (pictured).
Yoghurt-dipped banana bites. If you’ve got a little prep time and get organised in advance, make a batch of yummy banana bites by dipping pieces of banana (or other fruit) in Greek yoghurt, placing on a sheet of baking paper or tray and freezing until the yoghurt coating is firm. Enjoy straight from the freezer.
Baked apple. Just core and halve an apple (any kind), rub with a dab of butter or coconut oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in a hot oven until cooked through and a little soft. Serve with a spoon or two of full-fat Greek yoghurt, cottage or ricotta cheese. You could really sub any fruit you like too – plums, persimmons, nectarines, peaches and pears all work well.
Capsicum and herbed cream cheese. Mix a little home-made or good quality store-bought cream cheese (the real stuff - no "low-fat" or "light" processed versions please) with chopped chives, parsley or dill, season and spread over thick slices of fresh capsicum (bell pepper) to serve. For a sweet version, mix plain cream cheese with a touch of honey and spread over slices of fresh fruit or a piece of toasted sourdough bread.
Ricotta-stuffed dates. Easy and delicious, I like to add a small pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness of the fruit and provide that great stress-busting, hormone-balancing, thyroid-boosting sugar/salt combination. Don’t like dates? Substitute unsulfured dried apricot halves or figs.
Warm milk + honey. Who doesn’t love a warm cup of milk with honey? Add chai spices (cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger, etc) and sea salt for a beautiful snack that’s soothing to the adrenal glands, pro-metabolic and anti-stress (although you may just want to curl up and nod off afterwards!).
Hot cocoa. Another warming, nutrient-dense drink to enjoy on a chilly afternoon. Just warm a cup of milk of your choice (goat's milk, cow's milk, or go half and half coconut milk/water) with a heaped spoon of high quality cocoa powder, pinch of salt, dash of vanilla extract and honey, to taste. You could add a spoon of hydrolyzed gelatin too, if you like, which will blend in well and increase the nutrient value and protein.
Home-made jelly. Again, a wonderful way to include gelatin in your diet – see here for a recipe for firm jube-like jellies (pictured above), or use normal gelatin ratios (1 tbs powdered gelatin to 500 ml liquid) to make spoonable jelly flavoured with fresh fruit juice or honey-sweetened milk. Your digestive tract, skin, hair and nails will thank you.
Kate is a registered Clinical Nutritionist and offers one-on-one coaching for clients in Sydney Australia, and internationally via Skype or email. Visit the nutrition services page to find out more about private coaching, and be sure to subscribe via email and follow the Nutrition by Nature Facebook page for blog updates, articles, nutrition tips, recipes and special offers.