Hello! I’ve returned with everyone’s favourite topic: food.
I cannot last long periods without food, I get hungry/lethargic/grumpy if I don’t eat regularly. My family find it very funny that I eat like a ‘robot’; I will eat at exactly the same times everyday. It is a little strange, but it works for me. My meal times are:
5:30pm: pre-workout protein shake
Although I’m up at 6am most days and sat at my desk around 7/7:30am, I have to wait till 9am for breakfast otherwise I’ll end up eating twice! It took a little training and perseverance, but my body is perfectly happy now with some water and herbal tea first thing in the morning. It is very common to mistake dehydration for hunger when you wake up, so regardless of what time you eat breakfast I would recommend you drink a big glass of water.
There is debate around whether you should have a protein shake before or after a workout, merits on both sides of the argument. I’m not bodybuilding so I don’t need to worry about it, I’m still giving my body necessary protein to repair damage. I can’t exercise on an empty stomach, I eat dinner almost immediately after exercising, so having a shake prior to exercise works best for me. If you plan your day, you can plan your diet to avoid over/under eating.
I’ve given you a quick overview of my eating schedule, but I would like to talk to you about snacks as they are a really important part of a healthy diet. Some of us need a mid-morning snack to get through to lunch, personally I struggle with the mid-afternoon crash. You can honestly snack as many times in a day as you want, some people promote eating 6 small meals a day! Distribute your food throughout the day however you see fit, but make sure to add it all up. If you want to have small snacks throughout the day, remember to portion control your main meals. Whether your goal is to lose, maintain, or gain weight: be mindful of how you fuel yourself.
When I Snack
I eat snacks most often at work, post-rugby, or if I’m somewhere that I can’t eat healthy/vegan food. Therefore, my snacks have to be quick and easy, or pre-prepared.
Evenings when I have rugby training are the most awkward. As I mentioned, I can’t exercise on an empty stomach, but if I eat a full meal before training I’ll probably feel sluggish and give myself a stitch. I’ll also be hungry at 9:30pm when I get home, so the compromise is to eat a snack or small meal either side of training which satisfies me and stops me overeating.
I also like to be prepared when going out. Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your social life! Just make sure to have snacks to hand, so if you’re out and start to feel peckish you will have good options.
Homemade & Bought
Some of these snacks are fresh and homemade, others are not. While I truly believe eating fresh food is the best thing for you, it’s not the end of the world to eat something out of a packet. For instance, I don’t make my own hummus. I probably should because I eat it by the bucket load, but honestly I have better things to do. I love cooking but I don’t want to be chained to my food processor. I’ll make my own cereal bars on occasion, but I have no issue eating vegan/paleo energy bars from supermarkets. Being plant-based and healthy isn’t about being ‘perfect’, it’s about being mindful of your choices. Although I am still learning to practice what I preach, life is about balance.
Hopefully these snacks will give you some good ideas about how to eat well. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all your options, I’m merely offering what I personally eat (so naturally it’s tailored to my tastes). I see no reason to list things I don’t eat, I want to be as honest as possible.
Snack bars I eat are Nakd bars (favourite: cocoa orange), 9 bars, and Trek bars (favourite: peanut power). I used to eat these almost everyday, but I seem to have them less frequently now. If you want a sweet treat to get you through the afternoon, I see no reason why these can’t be part of a balanced diet. They are quite sugary so try not to eat five in one go, but the sugar tends to come from dates so it is natural sugars.
These bars are an absolute lifesaver for your pocket/bag, it means you don’t have to worry about getting hungry when you’re busy. I’ve made a habit of packing a box of bars in my suitcase when I go abroad, even if I don’t end up eating them at least I don’t have to panic about not finding vegan food!
There is a reason I named my blog Chickpea Charlee… I. Love. Hummus.
I really can’t remember the last time my fridge didn’t have hummus in it. It is such a delicious snack, I have to stop myself devouring the whole tub in one go (this has happened many times…). Hummus is high in protein and fibre which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. However the second member of the iconic duo, a hot white pitta, isn’t so great. If you’re trying to be healthier, avoid starchy white carbs (opt for wholemeal bread/pasta/rice where you can!). I personally eat my hummus with rye crackers, baby carrots, and my finger to get the last scrapings out of the tub.
This is a good post-rugby snack, or a lazy dinner if you double the portions. A slice of rye toast, half an avocado, topped with either diced tomatoes or chilli flakes is unbeatable. High in healthy fats and carbs, and lots of micronutrients and antioxidants. Avocado is just so damn delicious. It takes two seconds to slice avocado and toast some rye bread, which makes this perfect for a quick late-night snack. Probably a little high in calories to be considered a mid-afternoon snack (and awfully impractical to transport!), but it would be perfect for those times when ‘you’re hungry, but not that hungry’.
This one is a strange concoction I made up, it might not be for everyone but I enjoy it so it has made the list. ‘Smashed chickpeas’ is a popular plant-based alternative to sandwich fillers. All you need to do is mash the chickpeas up with a fork in a bowl, and mix in the desired amount of vegan mayo to make it creamy (with any additional spices/condiments you may like). I won’t eat it in a sandwich, but I will eat it on rice cakes. While they are not exactly rich in nutrition, rice cakes are low-fat and fill you up. I view foods like rice cakes as a ‘vehicle’ for other foods; they are just a way to get the chickpeas in my mouth! Chickpeas are great for fibre, and because they are a complex carb they help control blood sugar levels. While this isn’t the most exciting snack on this list, it will keep you fuller for longer and you won’t experience a sugar crash later in the day.
Talking of fibre, it is so important that you are getting enough in your diet. Others worry about vegans not getting enough protein, when many people in the Western world are deficient in fibre. Have you ever heard of someone being protein deficient? No. However, I can guarantee you know people who suffer from constipation, gallstones, diverticulitis, etc. Fibre deficiency is a real problem. It can aggravate problems such as your digestive health, weight gain, blood sugar control (related to type 2 diabetes), cardiovascular disease and cancer. Make sure you are eating veggies, beans, wholegrains, and nuts for a healthy tummy.
Fruit and Nut Mix
This is the snack I eat most often. I have a big jar on my kitchen counter that is full of nuts and dried fruit, and every day before work I fill a small container. I prefer to make my own mix because A) shop-bought mixes can have added sugars and sweeteners, and B) I like to choose what I want. My mix will have almonds, cashews, raisins, pistachios, dried apricot, walnuts, etc. You can add extras like coconut flakes, cacao nibs, the possibilities are endless. My absolute favourites (which I always leave until the end) are chopped dates and pecans. I’ve spoken about this elsewhere, but if you are trying to lose weight you need to portion control. Nuts are amazing for you, but they are high calorie so be careful. A small pot will be more than enough to curb your cravings. Luckily the ‘anti-fat’ movement has died down in recent years, as fats are an important part of a balanced diet. A healthy mix of nuts will give you lots of micro-nutrients that are great for your skin, heart, and immune system.
This snack is very easy to prepare, just evenly distribute your nuts and dried fruit in a jar and pick at whenever you need. This is one of the most portable snack ideas, so you can use this for any event.
I love energy balls, mostly because of the peanut butter. I add different extras to change the flavour of the balls, but the baseline always remains the same: oats, peanut butter and golden syrup. You can have cinnamon and raisin, chocolate, coconut, etc. All you need to do is mix the ingredients in a bowl, and then roll them into small balls and refrigerate. These are so tasty, and really versatile.
Sometimes I don’t even bother with the ‘ball’ part: if I fancy treating myself after dinner, I’ll just put the ingredients in a bowl and just eat it with a spoon…
Bananas are a really good source of carbohydrates, full of micro-nutrients, and they will fill you up. I do enjoy eating other fruits like berries, but personally I wouldn’t class them as a sufficient snack on their own because they don’t fill me up. Bananas are starchy so they will keep you fuller for longer, and they are great for active people as they help with muscle cramping.
Great on their own, or even better with some peanut butter!
Shakes are a quick and tasty way to get some extra protein in your diet. If you are using protein shakes to help with your training, remember to look after the rest of your diet. There is no point having shakes if you are eating takeout food around that, all you are doing is adding calories which will just make you gain more weight. Protein shakes are a supplement, not a replacement, so remember to get good sources of protein from other parts of your diet. I enjoy having a shake before I workout: it fills me up, it gives me some energy, and will help with muscle repair.
Whether you are vegan or not, I highly recommend a plant-based protein powder. Whey protein is notorious for causing acne, and if you have any sensitivity to dairy you’ll be farting a lot (sorry). Brown rice and pea based protein powders are easier to digest, contain less additives, and taste pretty good. A lot of non-vegan gym-goers have made the switch too.
I personally use Women’s Best vegan protein (vanilla) which is really creamy, and I also fill my water bottle with their BCAA (ice tea peach flavour) during my workout. Shakes are not necessary for a balanced diet; unless you are working out I wouldn’t spend the money. But if you are exercising, then shakes are a good supplement for your diet to aid recovery. Just remember to log those calories!
I hope you have found this post useful, if you liked it please share and subscribe to my mailing list! I’ve been training well this week, but I’ve been out for dinner a few times so my diet has been a little relaxed. As I’m still bouncing back from splurging on holiday too, I’m planning on being quite strict this coming week. If you are interested in the meals I eat to stay on track, please let me know and I can post some recipes.