Has your primary relationship during the lockdown been with your refrigerator? Do you know how many steps it is from your home office to your pantry? One of my favourite memes during this time has been of the note on the refrigerator: Stop. You're not hungry, you're bored.
Snacking during COVID-19 has taken on a whole new meaning so what better time for Tiffiny Hall to release a super little book called Snack Power: 225 delicious snacks to keep you happy, healthy and lean.
"Let's be real," says the founder of health and fitness program TIFFXO.com. "We're never going to stop snacking so we may as well lean how to do it properly and how to make them healthy."
In the book there are recipes for pre and post workout snacks, ones for juices, tonics, blends and smoothies as well as "goal-getter" snacks for weight loss or muscle gain. There are portable snacks, kid-friendly snacks and snacks for special diets.
But in these crazy times I was drawn to the chapter on "Comfort food and good mood snacks" and the whole idea of emotional eating.
"We've all eaten when we weren't hungry," says Hall.
"I have, of course I have! Everyone experiences moments of zombie snacking, but eating these types of snacks has never kept me on track with my goals."
She says it is really easy to over-snack with a treat here and there, free snacks in the work kitchen or a little something-something while you're cooking dinner.
"Over time, this zombie snacking can undo all your hard work - no matter how many times a week you exercise. I'm not the snack police (promise!), but I am going to break down two ways that snacking can sabotage your healthy lifestyle."
What follows is an edited extract from Snack Power.
Ways snacking can sabotage your healthy lifestyle
Occasionally, using food to make yourself feel better is okay. But when it becomes habitual, it can affect our health and leave us feeling crappy. There are many reasons why we emotionally snack (stress, hormones, anxiety, boredom), but food is not the antidote. It's important to find other things that make you feel happy or comforted and draw from these instead.
Snacking in the dark
I've been guilty of this one. Whether you're working late or lying in bed thinking about everything, it's easy to head to the fridge and snack on the first thing you see. Eating well beyond bedtime can lead to poor food choices and bad sleep hygiene, as we tend to reach for sugar snacks late at night and these disrupt our sleep. Your body will keep you up while it works on digesting the food, and this can lead to weight gain because we aren't active in the night and are therefore more likely to store those late-night snacks as fat.
Next time you think you need a snack, it's worth doing a quick head check.
1. The mental check-in
Ask yourself, How am I feeling right now? And be specific with the question by tagging on whatever it is you are doing in that specific moment. How am I feeling right now (as I stand in the pantry after the kids are in bed)? Am I hungry or am I just super tired?
2. Body scan
Your body will speak to you if you listen. Are your shoulders tense? Is your jaw tight? Are you clenching your toes? Do you have body aches or a headache? Are your muscles heavy and tired? Do a quick body scan of how you are feeling right now.
Nearly everyone I meet isn't breathing correctly. Yep, there's a wrong way to breathe. Shallow chest breaths will make you feel stressed and can increase cravings. Breathing right is the best advice I can give you. Take a full, deep breath into your diaphragm. Focus on the inhale for five seconds, and then on the exhale for five seconds. This will help de-clutter and de-stress your mind. Focus on expanding your ribcage as you breathe and breathing down to your belly. The more you practise this, the easier the process will become - promise!
No matter your mood, the snacks here will help you feel great. Some give you stamina and energy by keeping blood glucose levels stable, others provide a brain boost via their positive effect on the gut with fibre and prebiotics. And others are pure comfort; they will put a smile on your face because they taste amazing.
My mantras for Mindful Snacking
Here are six mantras to help you practise mindful snacking (no cross-legged meditation, incense sticks or crystals required - though I do love all those things).
1. Snack like a snail.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you're full. Eating slowly gives your brain time to realise you're satisfied and this prevents you from eating the whole batch of bliss balls.
2. Tune into your tummy. listen to your gut.
We often listen to our minds or feed our emotions without tuning in to our bellies. If your stomach is rumbling, you've smashed a workout or you're in between meals, you probably are peckish-listen to your body and see if it's your mind or belly talking.
3. Snack sitting down.
When we snack on the go, we're more likely to eat mindlessly - most of the time we forget we even ate. Sitting down (even for a minute) allows you to enjoy the physical act of snacking and reap the benefits of a mini mental recharge.
4. Excess sugar and salt are no good for you.
Potato chips and supermarket muesli bars are not snacks, they are energy zappers. Feed your hunger with wholesome and nutritious homemade snacks to curb sugar cravings and keep you satisfied.
5. Make friends with your snack. Form a bond!
Now, you don't need to get too deep; but do take a moment to consider where each ingredient comes from (the farmer who grew it, the animal it came from, the process involved in growing or harvesting that ingredient) and your involvement in putting the ingredients together - you'll appreciate just how much effort goes into every bite.
6. Don't struggle to juggle your snack plus a hundred other tasks.
Sometimes this is impossible - I get it! But if you can, try not to multitask while snacking: put the phone down, don't look at work emails, pause the washing up and just enjoy the single act of snacking.
- Images and text from Snack Power by Tiffiny Hall, photography by Brent Parker Jones. Murdoch Books, $32.99.
Chocolate-chip tahini cookies
90g rice malt syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g rolled oats (or quinoa flakes if gluten-free)
1 egg, whisked
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
45g dark chocolate chips (or chopped good-quality dark chocolate)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Place all of the ingredients except the chocolate in a large mixing bowl and combine well with a fork. Add the chocolate chips and stir through the mixture - it should be nice and sticky, so the cookies will turn out light and airy.
3. Spoon tablespoon-sized balls of the mixture onto the baking tray and slightly flatten with the back of the spoon. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
4. Cool on the tray for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to five days.
2 tbsp finely chopped peanuts
2 tbsp finely chopped pepitas
16 medjool dates, pitted and frozen for 15 minutes
50g vegan dark chocolate (70%)
1. Place the peanuts and pepitas in two separate small bowls
2. Melt the chocolate in a microwave for one minute, and then in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time until fully melted.
3. Dip half of each date into the melted chocolate and then roll in either the peanuts or pepitas.
Makes 16. 4 dates per snack.
Earl Grey tea cake with lemon coconut drizzle
135g spelt flour
100g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp loose-leaf Earl Grey tea
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
80ml maple syrup
55g coconut oil, melted
Lemon coconut drizzle:
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp flaked almonds, to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a standard loaf tin with baking paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the spelt flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt and tea.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together, then add the vanilla, maple syrup and coconut oil. Whisk together well, then pour a third of the mixture at a time into the dry ingredients, mixing until well combined.
4. Transfer the mixture to the tin and bake for 35 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
5. While the cake is cooling, combine the coconut oil, lemon juice and maple syrup together. 6. Allow the cake to cool, then drizzle the icing all over the top and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Store in an airtight container for up to five days.
Peanut butter oat bars
80g pitted medjool dates
100g rolled oats (use brown rice or quinoa flakes if gluten-free)
90g peanut butter
1 ripe banana
50g butter, melted
30g dark chocolate (70%)
1. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking paper.
2. Place all of the ingredients except the chocolate in a food processor and blitz until the mixture comes together, scraping down the side as you go. The mixture should stick together when pressed with your hands. If the mixture is too dry, add water a teaspoon at a time. If it's too wet, add an extra tablespoon of oats.
3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and press down gently so it's evenly spread out.
4. Place in the freezer for at least one hour to set. Once set, remove from the freezer.
5. Roughly chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each time, until melted and smooth.
6. Drizzle the chocolate all over the chilled mixture and return to the freezer for a few minutes to set.
7. Once the chocolate has set, carefully remove from the tin and slice into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.