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Snacking - a COVID problem

They're low-carb!! Eat your heart out!!!" Delish

And I think if you did eat a lot of these you wouldn't be doing your heart much good - avocados are fatty aren't they? As for bacon - well ...

At the weekend the AFR published an article from The Telegraph in London, which highlighted the fact that COVID has increased snack/boredom eating by 34% during the first lockdown, and the even worse 53% in the second. Now I do not know what the figures have been here, but I'm pretty sure they won't be good. The obesity epidemic marches on.

After all we were/are all bored a lot of the time because we are stuck in the same reduced environment with fewer options for distraction. And I'm guessing this is particularly true for the young - even the middle-aged - as they are the ones who go out to exercise. to meet with friends over drinks in a bar, a meal in a restaurant, a coffee in a cafe or a trip to the cinema. We 'elderly' people - we are 'elderly' now, not just aged or old - have probably not changed our habits quite as much. We may have already been bored in fact with more time on our hands, so we may actually have already been the worst offenders. And COVID, in addition to making us bored has made us anxious and frustrated. And so we reach for unhealthy snacks as:

"praise for reaching the end of another bleak, boring day of home-school and work with nothing else to do." Lauren LIbbert - The Telegraph

"Comfort snacking is using food to self-soothe when we feel anxious or overwhelmed." Dr. Christy Ferguson

So snacking - when, how, what? I think we all know why - yes - boredom, habit, depression and these are always lurking in our lives I think. Never mind COVID. It's just upped the ante somewhat. Personally I don't snack a lot during the day and never have. When I got depressed or heartbroken when young I would just cry and actually go off food, rather than on to it. These days if I am a bit down my thoughts do indeed turn to food - and drink - let's be brutally honest here - but it's more towards an actual meal - a particularly delicious one - than a bar of chocolate. No my danger period is the evening - after dinner, watching or half-watching the television. This is particularly a problem if David has made his beautiful bread that day (like today). It's just too tempting to go and cut a slice, slather butter all over it and top with cheese. Chocolate not so much unless it is offered to me by David who is a chocoholic. (I'm sure he would agree.) Mostly at this time of the day I stick to fruit - a piece of apple, some grapes - currently a plum or two. But if I've got strawberries I might eat them with ice-cream - strawberries good. Ice-cream bad. Yes it's dairy which is the killer for me.

That's my when, although during the day I might snatch a few grapes or a cherry tomato now and then as I pass the kitchen. No harm in that though. Indeed positively good. But I don't stop for coffee and cake, or chocolate as many do. It is difficult for kids and workers though as there are official snack breaks both at work and at school these days. Parents are expected to provide snacks for their kids - and to be fair there are lots of healthy and easy ideas out there for this - and also a lot of pseudo healthy ideas, which I shall come to. However, I suspect an awful lot of busy mums just buy possibly unhealthy snack bars and sweetened yoghurts from the supermarket - such as shown in this double-page ad from Uncle Toby's in the Coles magazine. Now to be fair, lots of these things are a lot better than they used to be. These days there is a lot of emphasis on low sugar for example, but there are plenty of others with icing, and chocolate, and all manner of other unhealthy stuff. And anyway there might be lower sugar, but higher fat, or salt or something else that's not good. Not to mention the biscuits. It's so much easier to just take something out of a packet and stick it in the lunchbox isn't it? Just be careful what you buy I guess.

But perhaps I'm being unfair. As to the workers - well probably not a lot of healthy snacking going on there. And they really should know better.

"very few of us are reaching for a kale smoothie when we're going mad with tedium. The snacks we crave are quick-fix: high sugar, high carb, high salt and bad for you." Lauren Libbert - The Telegraph

They also tend not to be home made. As somebody said, even if your home-made granola, say contains sugar and fat it's still probably a whole lot healthier than what you would buy. But we are all fundamentally lazy when it comes to making these little things aren't we? We might go to the effort to make dinner or even lunch, but a snack? No - that has to be ready to grab and eat immediately.

It really isn't so hard to make a dip. It takes just five minutes to make hummus - admittedly using a can of chick peas - and this, with some veggies would be so much healthier - and tastier - than so many other things - including a pot of hummus from the supermarket. In fact it's so easy that I think I might start trying to always have some kind of dip in the fridge - like this Skinny hummus from Jamie Oliver - less tahini (which is fatty), yoghurt instead. And yes I know kids are not that keen on vegetables, but you can probably find at least one that they like - raw carrot, cucumber, radish and failing that a healthy cracker would do the trick.

When I was growing up there were no dips. Indeed I don't think I remember noticing dips until I came to Australia. I think I might have been aware of aioli and bagna cauda - both garlicky kind of mayonnaise, but was too scared of the process of making mayonnaise to try. There were no food processors either and they (and blenders) have transformed previously difficult and tedious tasks into simple five minute fun.

Yes - I'm going to start making dips - perhaps beginning with this Minted pea and yoghurt dip - another one from Jamie. Fish pâtés would be good too, though these require lots of butter to be truly yummy and that's not good. Mind you perhaps you could replace the butter with yoghurt - or maybe some kind of bean. I should give that a try some time.

Going back to when, how, what, and to deal with the how I found some good advice on this.

  • When you eat your dinner, put your knife and fork down between each bite, as you chew. This will slow down your eating and make you feel fuller apparently.

  • If you are eating snacks such as chips whilst watching the television portion them. Put a few in a bowl or on a plate and leave the packet in the kitchen. When you've finished the portion that's it.

  • "To set up your body for success and prevent boredom eating, eat every three to four hours and load up on protein at every meal, such as eggs, fish and meat, to make you fuller and keep your blood sugar steady, so you're less hungry when you're bored." Dr. Christy Ferguson

As to what - now I found this really interesting. At the top of the page we see those 'low carb' Bacon avocado fries. They were one of 44 suggestions on the Delish site for 44 Healthy Snacks That Will Get You Through The Work Day. There were a lot of suggestions for fried things - admittedly 'fried' often meant baked in the oven - (with oil or fat of some kind), or air fried, but still.

There was also a lot of chocolate - Ok it was dark, but chocolate is chocolate. An example of the chocolate thing is this Sweet 'n salty chocolate bark. Heaps of chocolate, heaps of salt, and dried fruit for added sweetness. And those bacon avocado fries - really I cannot imagine that bacon whether cooked in the oven or actually fried would be good for your heart. Now I'm not saying they aren't potentially delicious - all of these things - but no not healthy.

That's the problem with boredom snacking though. It has to be delicious. It has to be a treat to lift you out of your bored and potentially depressed mood. And it's an instantaneous thing. You feel bored so you want an instant sugar or fat or salt - or best of all, all three at once - hit. And the carbohydrates too if you have been too good with your dinner. The thing about treats though is that they should be special should they not? A treat - an occasional special thing.

Why do we eat snacks when watching television? After all we are supposedly being entertained and are therefore involved - not bored. Why do we need to eat then? I am almost beginning to wonder whether there is a deep need for something sweet at the end of the day. We very rarely have dessert in our house - just that slice or piece of fruit in front of the television. Maybe we should have dessert more often. There are probably some semi-healthy desserts. Indeed I am going to make Yotam Ottolenghi's peach and raspberry cake tonight - the last of the garden peaches need to be used up.

Obviously there are indeed lots of quick, simple and very healthy snacks with which you can stock your fridge and pantry. Some are ready to eat - fruit of all kinds, especially the ones that don't need messy cutting up - like mangoes and pineapple. I don't really know whether there is an actual really, really healthy biscuit like something - for me they have to have cheese in them and that's a bit of a no no. And speaking cheese - what abou this other delicious looking but unhealthy Broccoli cheese bread. Yes broccoli is healthy but cheese isn't - especially when eaten in quantity. This is not actually a bread at all - the bread looking component is all cheese. Besides it's too much bother for a snack.

There's nuts of course. But too many nuts - aren't they fatty? And all those tempting ways of improving them with spices and things often involve fat - ditto for treating chick peas like nuts - though that might be a better option.

I could go on with healthy, and not so healthy examples of snack foods - the net and the magazines are full of them. It's really big business and never more than now. I don't think we are ever going to get away from snacks. None of us has that much self-control do we? After all I might be a bit holier than though about chocolate but will eat strawberries with sugar and ice-cream or a large slab of bread, butter and cheese. I also think we should make more effort to ensure that there is something healthy and grabbable in the fridge - like a vegetable dip - with some cut up cucumber and carrot to dip into it. Trouble is you can go overboard on that too.


I meant to wonder yesterday about rambling in a town, or village, even a city. The word tends not to be used for built environment does it? One doesn't ramble through a town. One wanders. So what's the difference between rambling and wandering. Before I look it up - rambling has slightly more sense of purpose to me. Here are the definitions for wandering that I found.

  • To walk around slowly in a relaxed way or without any clear purpose or direction - Cambridge

  • Characterized by aimless, slow, or pointless movement; not keeping a rational or sensible course - Merriam Webster

  • Travelling aimlessly from place to place; itinerant - Oxford

  • To ramble without any certain course or object in view; to go aimlessly or casually - Macquarie

So, much the same and with the same hint of disapproval. The Cambridge dictionary is the only one with any hint of approval by using the word 'relaxed'. Indeed Merriam Webster with its use of aimless and pointless as well as 'not keeping a rational or sensible course' is very derogatory, Isn't it interesting that a dictionary - supposedly the ultimate in objectivity - should be so damning of an activity that is so pleasurable to so many? What a value judgement. Wandering through villages just because they are the ones closest to your holiday lodging is one of the most delightful things to do on a holiday. You never know what you might see, and if we all treated everyday life in the same way - a random adventure - we might not be quite so bored and have to resort to snacking on muesli bars and chips.


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