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Snackcidents happen

Catherine Burns says snackcidents happen (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Ahhh, a snackcident. I occasionally have these when I let my blood sugar run low at the precise moment I’m somewhere tempting. For example, driving home from work having had an early lunch, being too busy to have a healthy snack in the afternoon and “needing” to stop at Tuck Shop to buy a card.

I tell myself I need to stop there, despite the fact I just left town which has multiple card shops. And then I leave with a card … and carrot cake. Which at least has a vegetable in it, but also a gallon of sugar. Ah well, snackcidents happen!

It’s not that I feel guilty about eating sugar. Rather, that I genuinely don’t feel brilliant after something like that. Also, my digestive health is my Achilles’ heel and when you’re trying to nourish your microbiome, sugar is not your friend. The problem that many of us have, is that aligning our daily habits with our long-term health goals can be difficult. And trying to avoid the junk, or less healthy options, often falls by the wayside when we are stressed, hyper-busy, not prioritising well or are triggered by something simply being too available. (Ever bought chocolate at the checkout?)

If you find yourself regularly having snackcidents, let’s look at some ways we can manage these both in terms of prevention and management. Note that the point is not to avoid any sugar/junk whatsoever, balance is important and no one should feel bad about having something less healthy, occasionally. Rather, let’s simply prevent these from becoming daily habits that sabotage your chances of feeling great almost every day. Are you with me? Then read on!

Eight steps for prevention:

Anticipate the hunger dip

The biggest trick in the book! If you know you get snackish around 3pm and if that snack usually ends up being a poor choice, then nip the craving in the bud! Have a glass of water and a healthy snack at 2.30pm instead. Set an alarm on your phone and make sure you have healthy options available. Nuts/seeds and fruit, or better bars such as low GI KIND bars (everywhere) or Aloha (Miles) are easy to keep in your bag or drawer at work.

Balance carbs with protein

You will be drawn to carbs for energy but if you pick something fast-releasing (crackers, cookies, a muffin, candy, or even a fruit smoothie) then your high won’t last for long. Try and pick a more slow-releasing carb (e.g. whole fruit, wholegrain seeded crackers, raw carrots) and pair it with a protein (e.g. nuts/seeds or hummus.) The fibre (in the whole carb) and the protein both work to steady glucose release. This means that your energy and feel-good factor will last for longer, and it's much less likely to be followed by a dip!

Practise ordered eating

As an extension of the above you can stay feeling full for longer by eating meals in an ordered way. This concept has recently been highlighted by the work of French biochemist Jessie Inchauspé (@glucosegoddess) who shows us that eating veggies, followed by protein and then carbs, results in a significantly lower blood sugar level than if you ate carbs first. This is easy if you are having something like a roast chicken dinner (green veg first, then chicken, then potatoes). It is less easy if you are having pizza, because everything is together. The trick there is to have a salad or veggie-based starter before the pizza, which also works in the same way.

Create a supportive environment

This week, I was watching television with the kids and couldn’t stop thinking about the one gluten free vegan ice cream cone (yes, there is such a thing!!) in the freezer. I was not hungry. I just wanted it. So I ate it. But I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t there. The point is, try and shop wisely. Don’t have things in the house that you would find tempting in the evenings if you don’t want to want them! It is better to go out for ice cream once a week than it is to keep it in the freezer (calling your name!)


Simple I know, but did you know that your body often confuses thirst for hunger? If you think you’re hungry but you actually only ate recently, have a big glass of water and see if your hunger settles. It’s not that you can’t eat anything, but just wait and see if you still want it after that glass of water hits.

Sleep well

When we sleep we produce a chemical called leptin. Less sleep equals less leptin. Less leptin equals a bigger appetite and especially cravings for carbs. So you can in fact, sleep your way to better health. Make sure you are getting at least seven hours with decent REM in order to keep carb cravings at bay.

Forward thinking

Remember I mentioned that I don’t feel great after the carrot cake? Thinking ahead sometimes works for me. If I think about how lethargic I’m going to feel afterwards, that can be enough to stop me doing it, sometimes. This works best in conjunction with anticipating hunger dips.

Optimise your micronutrient intake

This should really help you long term. When your body is missing valuable micronutrients it will continue to send you hunger signals, even if you already fulfilled your calorie quota. So, if you eat a crappy diet, your micronutrient needs may not be fulfilled and you will continue to feel hungry. Optimising your diet and picking nutrient dense options is key here. Since 2007 I’ve taught hundreds of people how to do this with Nutrifit, my six-week nutrition programme. The next one starts October 19 and you can find all the information online at waterfrontwellness.bm. Join me!

Two steps for management:

Add protein

If you picked up the cookies, cakes or chips and nothing is going to keep you from them, have a handful of nuts first! Pick something nutrient-dense such as almonds (vitamin E) or walnuts (omega 3). This won’t make your snack healthy as such, but it does at least reduce the impact that the refined carbs will have on your blood sugar levels. It should also naturally help you feel more full, so you might eat less than you normally would.

Move your body

Another tip from Jessie Inchauspé. Moving your body and working your muscles after a meal, or a carb-filled snack, helps to lower your blood sugar. This puts less pressure on your pancreas to release insulin, which ultimately as a habit, helps to prevent the development of diabetes type 2. Just ten minutes of exercise is enough to make a difference, so go for a walk or life some handweights in front of the television.

• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist. Look for Nutrifit & Natural Nutrition, Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram

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Published September 01, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated September 01, 2023 at 7:15 am)

Snackcidents happen

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