How to avoid the snack trap

Dietitian, Retha Harmse, guides us on how to avoid the snack trap and rather to eat smarter.

In family movies, like Home Alone, we see those sneaky traps, where the child lightly rakes leaves over a hole and then when the bad guys step on the leaves, they fall for the trap and fall into the hole.

The hole which the bad guys fall into is often extremely deep, so it’s hard to get out of. And, sometimes even the good guys fall in this cleverly-disguised trap.

The snackish, nibbly, grazing feeling when you constantly want to eat and feel hungry might often feel like one of those traps: the snack trap. And when you are in that hole, it’s so challenging to get out. Besides the fact that it might be detrimental to your waistline, it can also wreak havoc with your blood glucose control.

What is the snack trap?

Especially during this pandemic and in winter months, we have seen various people falling into the snack trap: the habit of nibbling and snacking the whole day. Whether it is because the food is readily available or if they are just bored or really hungry, people have been eating a lot.

To snack or not to snack, that is the question?

A quick side note: I became a dietitian because I really love food and not despise it. So, I really encourage snacking and don’t discourage it.

Snacking, if done in a correct and healthy manner, can be beneficial and protective for good glycaemic control. Therefore, inform your doctor and dietitian if you enjoy small regular meals and snacks in your daily routine so that they can adjust your insulin-regime accordingly.

Also, if your lifestyle does not welcome snacking so openly and it is something you don’t particularly enjoy, then you don’t have to snack. It all comes down to your preference.


Where snacking may become a problem is when it’s done mindlessly and out of boredom or habit. Remember that listening to your hunger and satiety cues are extremely important.

Do a hunger-fullness scan before eating and remember that emotional hunger will never be satisfied by eating.

Dr Michelle May states it perfectly, in the book series Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: “When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it.”

It is worth HALTing if you experience any of the following:

  • Hungry: Do I need something physically or emotionally?
  • Angry: What is causing me to feel this way?
  • Lonely: Am I having difficulty connecting with others?
  • Tired: When was the last time I took a break?

What makes a healthy snack?

Every time you snack, it’s an opportunity to give your body the beneficial nutrients you need to, not just survive but to thrive. Seeing it that way, we often think twice and make every bite count.

Same as with meals, snacks also need to be nutritious and filling. Therefore, it’s important that it contains complex carbohydrates, lean protein and/or healthy fats.

  • Complex carbohydrates: These might be in the form of whole or multigrain, with the low-GI and diabetes stamp of approval, containing sufficient fibre, and so the glucose can be steadily released into the bloodstream.
  • Lean protein: In the form of eggs, low-fat cheese, tuna, chicken (without the skin) or biltong (without the fat). This is also which causes satiation and will help regulate the glucose.
  • Healthy fats: These not only help to lower the GI of a meal but also makes it a nutrient powerhouse. These can be in the form of nuts and seeds, nutbutters or avocado. Beware of fats though, remember too much of a good thing can also be a bad thing so keep your portion sizes in check (e.g. thumb size for fats).

Healthy snack options

  • Cucumber slices topped with fat-free cottage cheese and paprika
  • Mushroom pizza (take big brown mushrooms, top with desired toppings, oregano and cheese. Bake in the oven or microwave)
  • Crudités, like veggies (carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini mealies, cucumber, celery) with hummus
  • Baked whole-wheat pita, veggies and tzatziki
  • Fruit dipped in yoghurt and frozen
  • Fresh fruit
  • Trail mix (nuts, seeds, raisins or dried cranberries) *
  • Avocado and Black pepper*
  • Rice rolls with soy and tahini-based sauce
  • Popcorn
  • Apple slices and peanut butter
  • Veggie chips
  • Game biltong (or normal biltong without the fat)
  • Yoghurt (plain non-sweetened)
  • Rice cakes, corn thins, cracker breads topped with fat-free cottage cheese
  • Boiled egg
  • Overnight oats*
  • Smoothie*
  • Small quiches (chop veggies in muffin pan, cover with beaten egg, bake 10 min).
  • Yoghurt bark (yoghurt on a baking sheet with fruits and seeds, freeze)
  • Chocolate bark (dark chocolate on a baking sheet with fruits and seeds, freeze)
  • Lettuce rolls (fill lettuce with lean protein, veggies, grain)
  • Roasted chickpeas (sweet: cinnamon and honey | savoury: paprika and coriander
  • Taco cups (whole-wheat wraps cut with a round cookie cutter, baked in a muffin pan, filled with chopped tomato, onion, peppers, etc.)
  • Cracker breads with sardines/pilchards/salmon or tuna
  • Veggie fritters (basic recipe is veggie + aromatics and spices + cheese + binding Agent)

*If on a weight loss diet beware of the portion size.


Retha Harmse (née Booyens) is a registered dietitian and the ADSA Public relations portfolio holder. She has a passion for informing and equipping the in the field of nutrition. She is currently in private practice in Saxonwold, Houghton and believes that everyone deserves happiness and health and to achieve this she gives practical and individual-specific advice, guidelines and diets.

Header image by FreePik

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