If you’re finding yourself snacking a lot more than usual then you’re not alone—with more time spent at home, and closer proximity to pantries and fridges, it’s easy to find yourself grazing throughout the day. So instead of going for chips or biscuits, why not reach for some healthy options instead? Here Sydney-based dietitian Rachel Hawkins shares some of the best snack options to have the next time you get a craving for a 3pm chocolate bar hit.
Greek or natural yogurt – “A fantastic source of calcium for bone and muscle health and also a hunger-busting hit of protein.”
Hummus with veggie sticks or wholegrain crackers – “Hummus is high in protein and low GI, which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full. Pair with veggie sticks or wholegrain crackers for a balanced snack that is high in added fibre and a host of vitamins and minerals.”
Air-popped popcorn – “A great wholegrain snack that is low in calories and a good source of fibre.”
Smoothies – “Homemade smoothies can serve as a great source of protein, calcium, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. It’s also a great way to add extra vegetables into your diet. For a simple smoothie try 1/2 cup mixed berries, 1 handful spinach, protein powder, 2tbsp rolled oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, milk, ice.”
Whole piece of fruit – “Simple, but full of micronutrients and a good source of fibre.”
Wholegrain crackers topped with cottage cheese – “A great high protein, high fibre snack which will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”
A handful of unsalted nuts – “High in protein, healthy fats and fibre as well as micronutrients such as vitamin E and zinc which are great for skin health.”
Muesli or Nut Bar – “Many bars are high in added sugar, so be sure to check the nutrition label carefully. Aim for a bar that contains around 3- 4g fibre and 5g+ protein. I love Carmans ‘Protein’ nut bar range – most flavours contain over 10g protein and 4g fibre.”
Edamame – “Fantastic high protein, high fibre plant based snack. 1 cup = 20g protein, 7g fibre.”
Roasted chickpeas – “Another great plant based snack that is a good source of protein and fibre.”
Being in isolation can really wreak havoc on one’s good intentions to eat well. Having access to snacks aplenty all day while WFH, not having access to all the ingredients we need and often feeling exhausted after a long day means that often we’re not eating as well as we could all the time. So, what are some ways to actually make it easier to eat healthily? I spoke to nutritionist and author Michele Chevalley Hedge recently, and here’s what she had to say…
What are some ways we can make it more feasible to eat well during isolation?
“It has always been a general nutritional philosophy to eat with a plan but certainly now that is even more important as most of us are only working several tempting metres from our pantries and snacks. If you find yourself wandering in boredom to kitchen to eat throughout the day then please map an eating plan a day or two in advance. A plan with a vision becomes a reality and one that comes with no guilt.
If you are in insolation and find yourself moving less than please consider reducing the amount of carbs you are eating. Still have them, make sure they are smart carbs ( brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potato, barley, oats ) but only have them at breakfast and lunch. Smart carb, starchy carbs, slow carbs—the terms are interchanged—but what you really need to know is that they break down to sugars. If we are not burning those sugars with brain energy and physical energy they will end up on your new ‘corona’ muffins.”
What does a day of healthy eating entail?
“There has never been a more appropriate time to look at our diets and build our immune systems than now. What a day of healthy eating looks like today should be the same as it should in one year from now. A diet that is full of real, whole foods, unpackaged and unprocessed as often as possible. This type of diet with good fats, quality protein and smart carbs is abundant in vitamins, polyphenols, antioxidants, fibre and do not have added sugar.
I encourage everyone to be eating three meals a day right now to keep their blood sugar stable for sustainable all day energy to keep up with teaching the kids at home, tidying and tidying again, cooking and you might even be working whilst doing all of this. When people skip or skimp on a meal especially during times of high stress, they might be buzzing along fine and then hunger hits and you reach for anything that is easy and often sweet.”
What are some essentials to aim to have in every meal?
“Breakfast and lunch should have all three macro nutrients in your meal. Good fats are brain food they also balance hormones and dampen sugar cravings. Protein helps balance blood sugar, builds immunity, and underpins collagen. Smart carbs are fuel for your brain and your body, and a good source of B vitamins
Consider for breakfast avocado, eggs, and sweet potato ( leftovers from dinner the night before); smoked salmon with extra virgin olive oil on a slice of buckwheat bread.
For lunch consider a version of what you ate the night before.
When it comes to dinner leave out carb or go low carb for adults but leave in for the children and use that carb as your breakfast in the morning.”
What essentials should people aim to have in their pantry and fridge to help making healthy eating easier and tasty?
“Spices are full of antioxidants and can make the same old veggies and meat taste like completely different meal.
Eggs are brain boost food. As well as containing a wide range of vitamins and minerals, eggs are among the richest sources of choline, a nutrient that makes acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain involved in nerve and brain functioning and memory. Many of the B vitamins found in eggs are important for mental wellbeing. Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are critical for good vision. Eggs are among the few food sources of vitamin D, needed for bones, teeth, muscles and a strong immune system. Several studies have shown people feel fuller for longer when they eat eggs for breakfast.
Milk is a versatile and budget-friendly way to pack a variety of nutrients into your diet, including B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iodine. Great for healthy bones and teeth. Dairy products are especially important for bones—research shows higher intakes support healthy bone development and help maintain density and strength. Of course, that’s if you can tolerate dairy. If not try A2 Milk, almond, oat, or soy.
Canned tuna and fish is a no-fuss, economical, clean protein that needs no preparation – simply open the can. There’s hardly any waste and, unlike fresh fish, it has a long shelf. Check it is from a sustainable source and look at salt values as some canned fish can be high in salt, especially if it’s smoked, canned in brine or in a sauce. Salmon, anchovies, and sardines are high in heart and brain-friendly omega 3 fatty acids which are great for dealing with inflammation. They are also high in Vitamin D, which is important for immunity, as well as low levels being linked to depression in some studies.
Almonds and nuts generally are nutritional powerhouses. I know they do not appear to be economical, but they are when you consider the nutritional density. Nuts are heart-friendly and provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats which helps explain why many studies link them to better heart health and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. There’s also evidence that, rather than encouraging weight gain, almonds may help us better regulate our weight and reduce belly fat, possibly because they help fill us up and replace other snacks in our diet that are higher in calories and lower in nutrients. Seven nuts and cup of herbal tea is the perfect snack, so we boost our brain and not our waistline.
Canned and frozen veggies are antioxidants that come in packages. Canning and freezing have come a long way and canned and frozen vegetables still provide lots of antioxidants, fibre and vitamins. Pick up frozen broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, mushrooms, broad beans, green beans which have long freezer life. Most vegetables include the essential vitamins and minerals needed for good health, including fibre, B vitamins such as folate, and vitamins A and C.
Tomatoes are packed with an antioxidant called lycopene, higher intakes of which have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers, such as prostate cancer. Better still, the body can absorb the lycopene from processed canned tomatoes more easily than it can from fresh. Use canned tomatoes in pasta, curry or soups. Remember, most vegetables are rich in flavonoids, which have been linked to better heart health – enjoy five serves a day, especially green ones!
Sweet potatoes/kumara are the “super taters”. Better than white potatoes as they contain a wider range of nutrients and are especially rich in beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A, a nutrient that’s vital for our immune system, vision and healthy skin. Keeping the skin on all potatoes boosts their fibre content so scrub then mash or chop and dose with olive oil and spices to bake.
Whole grains provide fibre and brain fuel. Oats, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal bread and bulgur wheat are fantastic budget buys loaded with nutrients and will keep you pipes moving. The soluble fibre also keeps your blood sugar balanced, lowers LDL and provides satiation so you don’t binge later. Walk past the white rice, white pasta or white bread – the outer bran layer and germ of the grain are stripped away, with the result that the grain loses much of its fibre and many of its nutrients.
Legumes are both carb and protein. Canned or dried chickpeas, lentils, and beans such as kidney, haricot, butter, black, cannellini, borlotti, flageolet, adzuki, pinto and black-eyed are an inexpensive way to satisfy hunger with protein and fibre as well as add nutrients such as potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and B vitamins. Pulses and legumes are full of fibre, which is linked to reducing blood cholesterol and improving glycaemic control. Beans and pulses are a source of probiotics for friendly bacteria in the gut. We need a healthy gut for a strong immune system.
What are your tips for adapting cooking when so many ingredients are not readily available right now?
“Adapt away without worries. Get creative. You cannot really fail at cooking…there is always toast! If the recipe is using herbs or spices you do not have, use something you like. If the recipe is a calling for a protein you do not like then swap it for another protein-based food. Lamb and beef can be replaced with chicken. Tofu can be replaced with chickpeas . When in doubt, google it.”
What are your top meal prep tips? How can people make it easier on themselves?
“Always double and sometimes triple the recipe. For example when I make chicken soup, I triple the recipe. The first night I will serve this on a bed of barley, the next day I will add a can of tomatoes and a fresh chili just for a new taste and look and serve with small pasta tubes and parmesan cheese. It is not only a time saver but a cost saving idea.”
If people do find themselves ordering takeaway, how can they make healthy menu choices while doing so? What are some things to keep in mind?
“Look for foods that you know you would make for yourself or your own family. Deep fried food, heavy syrups and sauces, sugar laden, heavily processed food should not be part of your takeaway plan—now or ever. If you are in doubt on what is in the food you are ordering, just ask. A quality takeaway outlet will be proud to share their ingredients.”
While there’s a lot we can do in terms of hygiene methods such as washing our hands often and not touching our face that can help protect us against coronavirus, there’s also plenty we can do when it comes to our diets.
I’ve been wanting to do everything I can at home to help boost my family’s immune system and one of the best ways to do that is through what we eat. We always try to eat well regardless, but I wanted to find out what we can add to our diets to help strengthen our immunity. So I turned to nutritionist and author Michele Chevalley Hedge of Sydney’s A Healthy View to find out the simple things we can add, and the tweaks we can make, to ensure our diet is as healthy as possible.
Why is maintaining a healthy diet so important for our immune system?
“Our quiet, humble immune system has never received so much attention as now. It has always been important to keep our immune system robust but it’s imperative now. And it is not just about building your immunity to prevent coronavirus but to prevent all illnesses. When our immune system gets comprised, it is like tearing down a wall that otherwise would keep germs at bay. What is being overlooked by the community is that anyone in poor health is far more susceptible to this invasive virus. It is a scary time for all and there are many unknowns and things we cannot control, but what we can control is how we nourish ourselves and that has a direct impact on our immune system.”
What are the best foods for boosting immunity?
“The good news is we all must eat so why not eat for immunity, mental resilience, energy and overall wellbeing? We need a diverse group of phytochemical and vitamins to create a strong barrier against pathogens and that is very ‘do-able’ with a diet of whole, real foods. A diet where the a majority of what you are consuming is not coming from a package that is laden with chemicals, trans fats and hidden sugars.
My favourite top 10 immune optimising foods contain vitamins and minerals include folate, zinc, iron, beta-carotene, Vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E. And these foods are:
Dark Chocolate which contains an antioxidant called theobromine, which may help boost the immune system by protecting the body from free radicals.
Sweet potato is rich in beta carotene which is a great source of Vitamin A, essential for immunity and an excellent source of sustained energy.
Kiwi fruit is high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, and antioxidants, such as alpha-Tocopherol and lutein. It has positive effects on the immune response making it potentially helpful in preventing a wide range of ailments.
Garlic has been used in medicine for centuries. Chopping or crushing stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound to which many of garlic’s immune boosting benefits is associated with. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait at least five minutes before eating or cooking
Broccoli and cruciferous veggies are the biggest bang for your nutritional buck as they’re not just immune boosters but liver cleansers as well. Chinese cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy and kale all contain beta carotene, letein, zeaxanthin, folate, and vitamin C E and K. They are rich in sulfur-containing substances called glucosinolates which are known for immune optimisation.
Probiotic food is important for good gut bacteria. Our immune system lies i just below the surface of our gut line so it’s important to keep it healthy by eating foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, yoghurt, kefir and natto.
Prebiotic food are the foods that feed the probiotic bacteria and are not as well knows as probiotics but equally important in our immunity. In addition to garlic and onion, there is Jerusalem artichoke, leeks and leafy greens.
Nutritional Yeast is unknown to most but this yeast often serves as an added value to soups, casseroles and even popcorn. It contains lots of vitamin B and beta glucons which have powerful infection preventing and immune supporting qualities.
Green Tea contains catechins, and quercerin and the amino acid L-theanine, all of which support our immune system.
Citrus and berries are abundant in vitamin C which is a natural anti-viral. They are rich in polyphenols and phytochemical that benefit digestive and immune systems.
How can people tweak the meals they cook to help boost immunity?
There are many supplements on the market that claim to boost immunity. What should people be looking for if they’re buying a supplement in the hopes of boosting their immune system? Is it even necessary to take a supplement?
“I always recommend getting your food right before I recommend supplements. However, right now, why not have that extra protection. Below are evidence-based supplements that improve or protect your immune function. I’d like to stress though that with all supplements, you should check with your qualified nutritionist first as they will tailor dosage levels to suit you.
A multivitamin and mineral: one per day
Vitamin C: 1000 mg – 1- 2 separate doses per day. Our body likes small doses of Vitamin C throughout the day.
Vitamin D3: 1000-4000 IU a day
Zinc: 20 mg a day
Melatonin: 1-3 mg at night, sustained release, one hour before bed. Remember blue light is a melatonin vampire.
Probiotics: dairy free is preferred.
For more recipes ideas and health tips follow Michele on Instagram at @ahealthyview or check out her new book Eat Drink…and Still Shrink