Purim often conjures up the image of nutritional nightmare, but it can actually teach us some healthy habits. Yes, I really mean it! ?
Many parents are concerned about the amounts of sugar their children will devour over the course of the day. The kids are definitely not waiting until the seudah to satisfy their appetites! And that’s where we can learn something… about the role of snacking in a healthy diet. Snacking can help you manage your weight, regulate your energy levels and mood, and improve the quality of your diet.
Sounds too good to be true? If you define “snack” as a mini-meal eaten between traditional meal times, it doesn’t have to be.
How does snacking help you manage your weight? The idea seems to fly in the face of the dietitian’s golden rule: if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. So how can eating more actually help with weight loss?
The secret is to eat more frequently without adding more calories. If you let yourself get too hungry, you are far more likely to eat more than you intended. By spreading out your intake over the course of the day, you can help keep your hunger in check and prevent overeating when you finally sit down to a meal. In order to achieve this without going overboard with your calories, you’ll need to be smart when making your snack choices. Look for items that will satisfy you without providing too many calories. Bear in mind that that “all-natural” or “organic” does not necessarily mean low-calorie. Also, pay attention to your portions. Keep in mind that this is a snack, not a meal, and eat accordingly. Choose single-serving items or put your snack onto a plate or into a bowl rather than eating straight from the bag or container.
Eating food that contains carbohydrate (starch, fruit, starchy vegetables, milk, and sugar) raises your blood sugar and provides you with energy. As your body uses this energy, the level of sugar in your blood drops. This is when you might begin to feel sluggish, cranky, and tired, and you may start craving sugary foods. This is where a good snack can give you a boost. But instead of reaching for that brownie you are craving, you can make a better choice. A whole-grain, high-fiber carbohydrate will give you the energy you need without causing a rapid surge (and shortly after, slump) in your blood sugar levels. If meals will be more than 4-5 hours apart, pair your carbohydrate with a protein or a healthy fat for more sustained energy. (See options below.)This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable for longer and tide you over until the next meal.
Another way that snacking can help rescue a poor diet is by providing an opportunity to stock up on nutrients you may be lacking. Many of us don’t get enough fiber, iron, and calcium; why not use snack time to let these nutrients in? Let your snacks feature whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and healthy fats and protein.
Here are some ideas:
• Soy chips
• Whole-grain muffin
• Whole-grain pretzels
• Low-fat popcorn
• Baby carrots + hummus
• Veggies + low-fat dip
• Whole fruit + low-fat string cheese
• Melon + cottage cheese
• Apple + peanut butter
• Trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, optional adds-ins such as whole-grain cereal)
• Whole-grain cereal +milk
• Whole-grain crackers + tuna
True, this does not sound like Purim. But you can start practicing now so that when Purim comes, you’ll be a pro. You don’t want to let yourself get too hungry throughout the day and arrive at the seudah famished. Pay attention to your energy levels and hunger signals and respond by nourishing yourself. Unfortunately, the fun foods the kids are reveling in will not be the options you are seeking. Don’t deprive yourself, but do respect your body by making quality choices that will give you the energy you need to make it a great day for you and yours.