Why are snacks so important?
Someone asked me the other day if pumpkin seeds were good for you in the menopause and I thought, ‘Oh, this would be a good topic as I have only really mentioned snacks in passing in other articles.’
I love food and snacks are a very important part of my diet, but I do know how easy it is to stray, especially if you are in an office environment and someone brings in jammy doughnuts (yum, but one of THE worst foods on the planet: fat, sugar and white flour: need I say more?).
You may be wondering why I am making such a big deal of snacks but the answer is quite simple. Fluctuating hormones in the menopause can make the nervous system much more sensitive to low blood sugar levels and sudden dips can trigger hot flushes/night sweats, panic attacks, low mood/irritability, headaches and nausea. So, keeping your blood sugar level is very important at this time.
Having a healthy snack between meals and in the evening may help to reduce symptoms quickly. A magnesium-rich snack before bed can often promote better sleep and may help to reduce night-time sweats. If you find that you get sugar/sweet cravings a lot and especially in the evening, this may be an indication that you are low in magnesium which, as you all know by now if you regularly read my blogs, is vital for a happy menopause!
So what can you have that is healthy but also nice?
There is a huge choice and although it may take a little more effort than opening a packet of biscuits, the benefits can be far reaching.
Here is a little list of my favourites and why they are 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 power houses of all the good things you need in the menopause. They are full of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. A wee handful at break-time will not only stave off hunger till 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. Yes, if you eat a whole packet! But a small handful would probably contain less calories than a chocolate bar or that jammy doughnut! Also, they are far more satisfying so you are less likely to carry on grazing and adding more calories to the account.
Another way of eating nuts and seeds is to make up a combination mix of your favourites, grind a portion and sprinkle on your cereal or yogurt. You can also get ready ground mixes at your local healthshop if you are really short of time, but it is much cheaper to make your own.
What about peanuts? They are not really nuts but in the same family as peas and beans. Roasted, salted ones should be avoided as they are really high in calories and salt, but a small amount of no-sugar peanut butter can be a good spread on an oatcake for another snack – I love this one for supper. Even better is almond butter – widely available now in supermarkets and health stores – which contains more nutrients and is super-tasty.
Fruits are another wonderful snack and a great way of getting some of your ‘Five a Day’. Apples and pears release their energy slowly, so are great for a busy day. Or make up a big bowl of mixed fruit salad, keep in the fridge and use over several days. You could also add in a little sugar-free plain yogurt (so many yogurts have sugar in them these days it is important to check first). A really scrummy snack I love is to put a tsp of organic cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate!) in some plain Greek Yogurt and stir well – chocolate heaven. Pure, unsweetened cocoa is a super antioxidant as well and very low in calories: a heaped tsp is only 9 calories!
Dried fruits are amazing as well, especially if you have a sweet tooth. They are 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 tropical fruits such as mangoes, papaya and pineapple. A small amount added into your nuts and seeds is a great idea and, as they take a bit of chewing, you shouldn’t overdo them.
Oatcakes, as I mentioned before, are a good little snack, but again lots of brands contain sugar (it’s everywhere these days!) so do check. You can put lots of yummy things on oatcakes: cheese – in moderation, nut butters, vegetable savoury spreads or my favourite: smothered in Marmite!
I hope this helps you through the snack attacks and I am sure many of you have your own healthy favourites so please share!