I don’t know about you but I’m clocking in more sofa time this winter and with the Winter Olympics, it seems to be more than ever! It is exciting to see all the podium action by the Canadians at the games. But we need to be careful about our energy balance with all this indoor inactivity!

My latest HuffPost blog How to become your own Olympian discusses how you can support your inner Olympian with nutrition, fitness, sleep and the proper attitude to succeed at anything in life. As part of the nutrition strategy, snacking can be a critical piece to keep us energized during our day to get things done. Let’s see what some of our favourite Canadian Olympians like to snack on!

Olympian Approved Snacks

This year CBC asked four Canadian Olympians to share their favourite snacks (1). And this is what they said…

  • Clara Hughes enjoys rice cakes with almond meal and chopped dates
  • Jennifer Heil makes a shake with hemp hearts, almond milk, natural peanut butter, and fresh/frozen fruits and veggies
  • Adam van Koeverden fuels up on nuts and dried fruit, water and a banana
  • Kaya Turski likes hard boiled eggs, turkey sandwich on rye bread with a medium sized apple

What Makes a Healthy Snack?

The #1 question I get about snacking is “What do you recommend for a healthy snack?” I agree with all the Olympians’ terrific snack ideas. Remember it depends on the person, the meal plan and energy expenditure. For general tips to choose healthy snacks, I recommend the following:

Caloriesapple and tape

  • A nutrient packed snack should have about 150 to 200 kcal. A recent article in the Journal of Paediatrics looked at the effects of nutrient dense snacks as compared to low nutrient density unhealthy snacks (2). They found that when people snack on healthy choices such as vegetables and cheese, a whopping 70% less calories were consumed compared to unhealthy snacks such as low nutrient potato chips.

Protein

  • The protein amount should be at least 6 grams (10 grams is ideal). Protein has a satiety effect which helps us feel full. A study reviewed afternoon snacks with a focus on yogurt with varying degrees of protein (3). The high protein snacks delayed the onset of eating the next meal. Another study identified the higher protein (up to 14 grams) content provided even greater satiety and less consumption at the evening meal (4).

Fibre

  • The fibre (include soluble and insoluble) amount should be in a range of 2 to 5 grams. A nutrient dense, high quality snack with soluble fibre has been associated with a positive effect for blood glucose control. Researchers studied the effects of a snack on the blood glucose. They noted that without the snack there was a drop in blood glucose (5). The participants who eat the snacks had a more consistent blood glucose profile than the people who did not.

How to Snack Like an Olympian Bottom Line

Aim for a snack with two to three food groups containing a variety of vitamins and minerals. This will add to your overall nutrient packed fuel to keep you energized like an Olympian for your active (not a sofa ornament) day!

Recipe

I’m a big fan of parfaits for two reasons – they look fantastic and they take minimal time to prepare. Try this delicious yogurt, walnut and fruit parfait (the honey is optional!) from Martha Stewart’s wholeliving.com. It is perfect for eating while celebrating Canada’s athletes and medals!

References:

  1. CBC News. Sochi Olympics: 4 Canadian athletes share their favourite snacks; 2014 [cited 2014 Feb 4]. Available from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/sochi-olympics-4-canadian-athletes-share-their-favourite-snacks-1.2514360
  2. Wansink B, Shimizu M, Brumberg A. Association of Nutrient-Dense Snack Combinations with Calories and Vegetable Intake. Pediatrics. 2013;131: 22-29.
  3. Douglas S M, Ortinau L C, Hoertel H A, Leidy H J. Low, moderate, or high protein yogurt snacks on appetite control and subsequent eating in healthy women. Appetite. 2013; 60: 117-122.
  4. Marmonier C, Chapelot D, Louis-Sylvestre J. Effects of macronutrient content and energy density of snacks consumed in a satiety state on the onset of the next meal. Appetite. 2000; 34: 161-168.
  5. Orre‐Pettersson A C, Lindström, T, Bergmark V, Arnqvist H J. The snack is critical for the blood glucose profile during treatment with regular insulin preprandially. J Intern Med. 1999; 245: 41-45.