Why are snacks so important?
Someone asked me the other day if pumpkin seeds were good for you during menopause and I thought, Oh, this would be a good topic, as I've only mentioned snacks in passing in other articles.
I love food, and snacks are a very important part of my diet, but I know how easy it is to stray, especially if you're in an office setting and someone brings in jelly doughnuts—yummy, sure, but one of the worst foods on the planet, because they're made of fat, sugar and white flour.
You may be wondering why I'm making such a big deal about snacks, but the answer is simple. Fluctuating hormones during menopause can make the nervous system much more sensitive to low blood sugar levels, and sudden dips can trigger hot flashes and night sweats, panic attacks, depression or irritability, headaches and nausea.
So, keeping your blood sugar levels stable is very important currently in your life.
Having a healthy snack between meals and in the evening may help reduce symptoms quickly. A magnesium-rich snack before bed can often promote better sleep and may help reduce night sweats. If you find that you get cravings for sweet foods a lot, especially in the evening, it may be an indication that you lack magnesium which, as you all know by now if you regularly read my blogs, is vital for a happy menopause!
What can you have that's healthy and delicious?
There's a huge choice out there, and although it may take a little more effort than opening a box of cookies, the benefits can be far reaching.
Here's a little list of my favourites and why they're good for you.
- Nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, pine nuts and pistachios, are little powerhouses of all the good things you need during menopause—they're full of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. A little handful at break time will not only stave off hunger until lunch but will also give you vital nutrients to help support your nervous system, keep your skin supple and help with mood.
A lot of women worry that nuts are fattening and avoid them as a result. They are fattening... if you eat a whole bag of them! But a small handful would probably contain fewer calories than a chocolate bar or that infamous jelly doughnut! Also, they're far more satisfying, so you're less likely to carry on grazing and packing on the calories.
Another way of eating nuts and seeds is to make up a trail mix using your favourites, or to crush a portion and sprinkle them on your cereal or yogurt. You can also get ready-ground mixes at your local health shop if you're short on time, but it's much cheaper to make your own.
- What about peanuts? Technically not nuts, they belong instead to the peas and beans family. Roasted, salted ones should be avoided, as they're high in calories and salt. But an oat cake (if you can find them) or a rice cake, topped with a small amount of natural peanut butter (the kind with no added sugar, oils or additives) can be another good snack. Even better is almond butter—it's widely available in supermarkets and health stores—which contains more nutrients and is super-tasty.
- Fruits are another wonderful snack and a great way to reach your "half a plate" portion. Apples and pears release their energy slowly, so they're great for a busy day. Or make up a big bowl of fruit salad to keep in the fridge and use over several days. You could also add in a little unsweetened plain yogurt—so many yogurts have sugar in them these days, so it's important to check first.
- A scrumptious snack I love is to put a teaspoon of organic cocoa powder (not hot chocolate mix) in some plain Greek yogurt and stir well—pure chocolate heaven! Pure, unsweetened cocoa (preferably Fair Trade!) is a super antioxidant in addition to being very low in calories: a heaping teaspoon has only 9 calories!
- Dried fruits are amazing too, especially if you have a sweet tooth. They're full of vitamins and minerals such as the wonderful magnesium we all need so much of. You can get all sorts of mixes now, including some with tropical fruits such as mangoes, papaya and pineapple. A small amount mixed in with your nuts and seeds is a great idea and, as they take some chewing, you won't easily overdo them.
- Oatcakes, which you can find at stores make for a nice snack, but many brands contain sugar—the stuff is everywhere these days!—so make sure to check and avoid the sweetened ones. You can put all kinds of yummy things on oatcakes: cheese (in moderation), nut butters, veggie pâté, etc.
I hope this helps you through the snack attacks. I'm sure many of you have your own healthy favourites, so please share them with me!