Snacking: Good or bad?

Who would have thought a common little word, ‘snacking’, could generate such big controversy?! Depending on who you speak to, snacking (aka grazing, or eating small amounts frequently or between meals) is a very good habit or a very bad one.

Some specialists say it’s good, as long as you ‘don’t consume too many calories over the day’ and have ‘a healthy balance of foods and drinks.’ Some also say that snacking throughout the day is preferable to eating three times a day, and carbs make much better snacks than protein foods.

Others say all that advice is out the nutritional ark. They say the CICO (calories in, calories out) theory is unscientific, weight loss is not as simple as just a numbers game, and fat is fabulous fuel for the body. For more on that, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by US investigative science journalist Gary Taubes.

Snacking habits that make them winners

Not everyone needs snacks, of course. However, what isn’t controversial is that athletes and others who are on the go all day long, need regular top-ups with high-quality snacks to provide extra energy and nutrients for body and mind.

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In sport, in particular, the right snacks and drinks are shown to support training and performance. Here, in the latest Discovery Vitality Newsletter, swimmer Chad le Clos and other top South African athletes and celebrities spill their snacking secrets. Interestingly, there are no energy drink or refined carbs on the list. And the two the most popular snacks foods turn out to be classic ‘Banting’ (low-carb, high-fat) recommendations: nuts and biltong.

Chad le Clos – professional swimmer, Olympic gold medallist

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“My training in the lead up to swimming events is intense, and I rely on snacks to give me enough energy throughout the day to best prepare me for my training sessions – hours and hours in the pool! My favourite healthy snacks on most days are biltong, nuts and bananas.”

Liesel Laurie – Miss South Africa

“As the current reigning Miss SA, my days are filled with media and charity events, and I rely on healthy snacks throughout the day to keep my energy levels up and to make sure I’m eating well. I am a big fan of dried fruit and unsalted nuts, which I keep in my handbag wherever I go.”

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