YOU know the people I am talking about — the ones who seem to never gain a gram of weight without following any specific diet? What do they do differently to the rest of us? Do they never say yes to the office cake? Or do they have carefully portioned out containers filled with nuts, homemade yoghurt and diced fruit?
When it comes to the specific dietary habits of slim people, data pertaining to their daily snack habits is lacking but this is what we know.
1. THEY EAT WHEN THEY ARE HUNGRY
Data available suggests that slim people eat less frequently than those with higher BMIs. This suggests that slim individuals do not eat because it is morning tea time, or because they have packed themselves a tasty snack, rather they actually wait until they are genuinely hungry to eat. When was the last time you felt really, really hungry? Chances are it was a while ago as societal norms tend to see us eat regularly for a whole lot of reasons other than hunger. The take home message, only eat if you are really, genuinely hungry and cannot wait until the next meal.
2. THEY EAT MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Slim people including those who have lost weight and kept it off consume a higher proportion of low calorie fresh fruits and vegetables than the average person. When it comes to nutritious snacks, this means that fruit as well as vegetables play a starring role, as opposed to the processed biscuits, bars and sugary drinks many of us turn to between meals. Think fresh fruit, vegetables juices, cut up vegetables and frozen fruit options as light, nutritious snacking options.
3. THEY PLAN AHEAD
Many of us want to eat well, but it is the times we find ourselves busy, hungry and caught out without nutritious foods on hand that we choose high calorie processed snack foods. For this reason planning plays a crucial role in making good snack choices throughout the day. A small container of nuts, a piece of fruit or cut up vegetables, or a small protein or nut-based snack bar are all nutritious, filling yet calorie-controlled options which are easy to keep on hand for times when hunger randomly strikes.
4. THEY DON’T WASTE CALORIES
Whenever a client completes a food diary the interesting thing is how many mindless calories are consumed throughout the day — a couple of biscuits here, a piece of chocolate there and a few extra crackers or pieces of cheese and before you know it you have consumed an entire extra meal in calories without even noticing. Limiting mindless munching and eliminating the little extras goes a long way in calorie control so when you are wanting to indulge in a special treat, you have not wasted a lot of your calories already throughout the day on unsatisfying snacks.
5. THEY FOCUS ON QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
When you are genuinely hungry in between a meal, the key is to choose a snack option that has some positive nutritional properties and as such will fill you for at least an hour or two before your next meal. Protein and fibre-rich snack choices such as nuts, Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and wholegrain crackers are all options that when consumed as a mini meal will keep you full for at least an hour or two. On the other hand, rice crackers, juices, muffins, biscuits and cakes are all known to rate low on the satiety index — a measure of how long foods will fill you for. When you choose naturally filling snacks, you will eat less overall, and as such your snacks will support weight control.
Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter @SusieBDiet