Written by Susan Joy
This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the The Joyful Table, a 96five community contributor.
What are macronutrients? They are the building blocks for a healthy diet.
There are 3 macronutrients: protein, fats and carbohydrates. Balancing macronutrients ensures that you feel satisfied after each meal and help reduce excessive snacking.
Balancing my macronutrients at each meal has helped prevent the need to snack like I had done most of my life. There is a reason you want to keep opening the fridge or pantry. A craving is telling your body that something is needing attention, a bit like pain. By looking at the way my meals are balanced and making changes has helped stop the ups and downs of my blood sugar levels and helped stabilise my hormones. I was Insulin Resistant, Pre-diabetic and had a Fatty Liver. The incorrect snacking resulted in my conditions. If I snacked on savoury instead of sweet that would have helped but why was I needing to eat continually or graze? The answer was in finding my macronutrient balance at each meal.
Your metabolism manages how the macronutrients are used. Carbohydrates and starches are metabolised into glucose. Protein is metabolised into amino acids to build tissue and fats are metabolised into an energy source.
A good rule of thumb to aim for with your macronutrients are:
Protein – aim for 20 – 30% of your daily food intake to be a good quality source of pasture raised protein. This should be a complete form of protein like – fish, chicken, beef, eggs etc.
Good Fats – aim for 10 – 20% of your daily food intake to be made up of good quality fats like – avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut cream, ghee, grass fed butter, nuts, seeds etc. (not inflammatory vegetable oils).
Carbohydrates – aim for 50% of your daily food intake to be made up of non-starchy vegetables. Eat your way through a rainbow of vegetables. Also 10 – 20% fruit and starchy vegetables like, sweet potato, pumpkin, root vegetables, berries, apples etc.
Safe Carbohydrate Choices:
- All vegetables including some starchy veg like sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin.
- Fresh fruit.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Natural sweeteners, raw honey, 100% maple syrup, dates.
- Safe flours like, coconut, almond meal, buckwheat, arrowroot or tapioca.
What carbohydrates to remove:
- Processed flours, grains and the food that are made from them, like pasta, pizza, white bread, crackers etc.
- Refined sugars, white table sugar, corn syrup, agave etc. Flavoured yoghurt, you will also find sugars hidden in packaged foods and bottled sauces.
Having a plate of good quality food that’s balanced at each meal can prevent the urge to snack. You may need to play around with your macronutrients a little to see what works best for you. If I have too much protein and not enough non-starchy green vegetables and fat, I’ve found I get a sweet craving after the meal. I’ve also found by adding 1/2 a cup of sweet potato to my evening meal, prevents the urge to reach for a piece or two of dark chocolate.
So as you might guess, snacking too much (especially on the wrong types of food) can contribute to health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, hormone issues, insulin resistance, teeth and gum disease. (When you snack frequently the bacteria in your mouth have a continual supply of food and keep producing acid, so your teeth are constantly covered in acid. Your saliva just can’t keep up with neutralising your mouth).
Our bodies need nutrients – food is our fuel and our foundation, just like a car won’t go without petrol. I’m glad to see our government health bodies are moving forward and have thrown out the old food pyramid. They aren’t scared of good fats anymore and are viewing carbohydrates differently.
Lets check why you may need to snack:
- Are you dehydrated – have a big glass of filtered water before you choose a snack? You may just be thirsty.
- Are you bored (sitting at a desk working we often mindlessly snack)? Drink a nice cup of herbal tea.
- Are you stressed, do you have some anxiety or feeling lonely?
- Was the macronutrients in your last meal balanced for what your body needs?
- Do you have a habit of mindlessly snacking while watching TV?
Some snacks that may be helpful:
- Vegetable sticks with homemade pesto or guacamole.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Half avocado with a sprinkle of sea salt.
- A bowl of homemade soup.
- A green garden salad with olives (make extra when doing dinner and put aside).
- Chicken drumsticks.
- Hard boiled eggs.
- Small can of tuna or salmon (in springwater).
- Coconut yoghurt.
- Gluten free toast topped with nut butter or avocado.
- 1 cup green smoothie.
Snack recipes you can prepare ahead to have on hand:
Middle Eastern Lamb Meatballs (click for recipe)
Chicken and Veg Bites (click for recipe)
Carrot and Parsnip Muffins (click for recipe)
Pumpkin Sandwich Bread (click for recipe)
Vanilla and Coconut Chia Pudding (click for recipe)
Curried Eggs (click for recipe)
Pot Set Vanilla Coconut Yoghurt (click for recipe)
Balancing your macronutrients at each meal can help prevent the need to snack but if you are starving, your body is telling you to eat, so choose a savoury snack and enjoy it. A food diary is a helpful way to track how you feel between meals and will help you review what did and didn’t satisfy you. There will be people who do need to snack, like pregnant and breastfeeding women, athletes or active children etc. and people with a particular medical condition. Preparation is the key to serving your body well. Keep your fridge stocked with prepared savoury snack options for those days extra fuel is needed.