A handful of almonds, a chocolate bar, or a fruit – the taste of these kinds of food is sacred. And not just for children. At home or office, one in two adults take a daily snack. Even nutrition-focused programs like Nutrisystem include it. What’s with the penchant for snacking? Can it make you fat? How do you have a balanced snack?
Afternoon tea, an ancient tradition
Acclaimed by the French today, the snack is an ancient tradition. During the Renaissance, the bourgeoisie had already introduced the sweet snack.
Cakes, buns, cereals – just take a look at supermarket shelves to realize that the snack industry is doing well. And proof of that is the fact that 85% of French children take one every day, whether home-made or supplied by regimens like Nutrisystem meals.
This craze for tea and snacks can be traced to the Renaissance period. At the time, the aristocrats had the habit of meeting between meals for a snack. A symbol of the nobility, it was mainly composed of fruits, sweets, and wine.
However, it fell into disuse for several centuries, after which it reappeared in the 50s. Afternoon tea is no longer a privilege but a real social pleasure. Pierre Mendes-France, then head of government, imposed small snacks in schools. Milk and bread, and sometimes apples, were distributed to students to overcome postwar deficiencies. It was also a way to boost milk production, which was in decline.
Today, the taste for snacks is rooted in the mores of the French. About 55% of adults report taking a snack daily. Unfortunately, this habit is not always balanced, which explains why the likes of Nutrisystem existed.
The sports snack
Why is snacking important for athletes? To recover energy and improve their performance, athletes are well advised to have a snack. It must be adapted to the practiced discipline and intensity of the workout.
Julien Louis, nutrition researcher at INSEP sports, presents the ideal snack for a sportsman: “First, a bottle of water to rehydrate and recover the water and minerals lost during the workout. The second important element is to provide sugars after exercise to replenish its energy stocks, particular with fruit. Finally, a third important source of energy is protein, to repair muscle fibers damaged during exercise. For this, we can advise a dairy product, like cheese or yogurt.”
Incidentally, a dietary plan like Nutrisystem’s has these elements.
The snack is essential for top athletes. But to take full advantage of all its benefits, it must always be taken within thirty minutes after the effort, as confirmed Julien Louis: “After exercise, the immune defenses are weakened, allowing easy passage of all nutrients in the body – carbohydrates, protein, fat – so as to recover optimally. So, the immediate recovery period after exercise is the best time to take a snack.”
The snack should be appropriate to the discipline practiced and the intensity of the workout. For strength sports involving large muscle loads, the ideal snack is always composed of water and sugars and, above all, a high protein drink. In the case of prolonged effort, the refreshment is completed by a source of carbohydrates, such as a cereal bar, some of which are offered in dietary menus like Nutrisystem’s. For recreational athletes or in case of moderate effort, snacking is not mandatory. Being well hydrated is enough.
Dial a balanced snack: Recipe ideas
How do you make a balanced snack?
JS Bompoil, from Atelier chefs, offers three balanced recipes:
A croque-monsieur wholemeal bread base with a thin layer of marmalade and some apple slices.
Popcorn way granola
Cereals in a pan or in the microwave decorated with dried fruit and drops of coconut oil.
Green crocodile smoothie
Kiwi-based juice, with banana, green apple, and fresh cilantro (or mint).