independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Healthy snacks for busy women

Check out some simple ways to steer clear of these convenient-but-dreaded vending machine offerings

Businesswoman eating cheeseburger at desk
Check out some simple ways to steer clear of these convenient-but-dreaded vending machine offerings

I am always disappointed at the food on offer when I'm out on the road. I might head to a distant destination, hitting off at 6am to arrive for a day's work before nine, poised and ready to present a seminar on healthy eating to eager staff members.

If, while filling up with diesel on such a journey I was limited to eating what is available on the road I would be one dozy, distracted, disgruntled presenter for the day.

I can't understand how we often settle for such fare as if life kept throwing surprise after surprise at us when it comes to meal-time. I find that most of us can predict at least 90pc of how our day is going to turn out. Life tends not to be as full of surprises as we think.

If work is crazy this week then it is very likely you may have to stay late. Are you equipped for this or are you going to indulge in a vending machine treat because you are surprised by your hunger at 7pm?

Most of us have some sort of commute and many commitments to family and others that press us for time, so that we end up skipping such important meals as breakfast or even lunch and end up hungry on the run. If hunger rules you, your nutritional status will suffer as you fall prey to eating what is to be found in newsagents, garages and vending machines.

Follow my tips to change your approach to eating on the run. Once you raise the bar of your eating habits you will be consistently equipped for what life throws at you.

Go nuts when you are running late

Always carry nuts around with you. They travel extremely well, last for ages, and if kept airtight, remain fresh and satisfying for weeks. I find many women I meet are nervous of the nut. Yes it is extremely high in fat; yes a 200g bag you might consume by stealth during movie night adds up to a whopping 2,000 kcal of energy; yes they are too delicious to be wholesome when covered in chocolate, 'yoghurt' or salt. Nuts, however, are nutrient powerhouses. They are brim full of energy, fibre, protein, essential fatty acids and nutrients, such as vitamin E. The only trick to their consumption is that of portion control.

If you knew there were a food stuff available to you at a good price that delivered hunger-control and exceptional nutrition in a handful of calories you would very likely be tempted to consider it. That is the nut. Nuts are high in protein as well as fat and so satisfy hunger very well. They sustain you for long periods of time. They will not bloat you like an apple and banana might as you head to the gym or to swimming after work. They keep you satisfied and sane right up until dinner time, if consumed at, say, 4pm on a regular working day.

To keep calories at bay (if that is of concern) you must eat them in small amounts. A small bag (40g) will give you an equivalent amount as a bar of chocolate (approx. 250kcal). I never recommend buying sack-loads of nuts as portion control is not everyone's forte.

Oil your machine

No, we do not need to carry a bottle of oil around with us for good health. I put lots of oil into some snack foods that I regularly make, freeze, and bring with me to work, for those crazy weeks when meal-times seem an extravagance rather that a necessity.

Essential fats are often missing in the busy woman's schedule. We aim to eat low-fat foods in the name of weight-maintenance and when starved, due to busyness, fall for such high-fat confectionaries as biscuit bars and chocolate which are high in fat but low in essential fats.

On weekends when you fancy 'inhabiting your kitchen' as Nigella would say, try my recipes above and reap the benefits over the following weeks. High essential-fat muffins and granola are the perfect treat at the end of the working day.

If hungry they will satisfy on both an appetite and sense of personal achievement level, due to the fact that you made them yourself and did not have to resort to the cheap and nastiness of mass-produced 'cereal' bars.

Get a leg-up from legumes

It is a fact that when I mention legumes to a group, eyes tend to glaze over, as we tend to consider legumes bird food or food for hardened vegetarians. In fact, most of us have loved the humble legume that is the baked bean, for years and never thought of it as a vegetarian source of protein, fibre and satisfaction. For snack-time, nowadays, the legume comes in very tasty modern renditions of the original of the species, which include peas, beans and peanuts. The edamame bean (immature soy bean), the wasabi-coated pea and even baked beans all constitute convenient and stunningly satisfying quick-fix mini-meals on the run. Legumes do a number of things in the body. They not only help to curb hunger pangs for few calories, but they can help to lower cholesterol, regulate hormonal imbalances, post-menopause for instance, and contribute such nutrients to the diet as Iron and B-vitamins.

Last-minutes grabs

Finally, when rushing out in the morning with little prepared for the day, I fall back on such staples as feta and baby tomatoes. Fruit is an obvious essential. If I aim to consume five pieces today I bring all five with me. My trusty banana holder has paid many years of dividends and we all have enough plastic pots at home to be able to compartmentalise the strawberries and the blueberries.

For vegetables I favour the crunchy and speedy to prepare, such as cucumber slices and carrot sticks. Do not forget to always have a fork and spoon in your handbag. Eating on the hoof, with fingers, is not as elegant as with a knife, fork and serviette on your lap.

Trust me, this is what you will find me doing in the car outside of a company at lunch-time, listening to the radio and enjoying the break from rushing around!

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