Clean up snacking habits

Podcast Episode #027: How to Clean Up Your Snacking Habits

What's your "go-to" snack when you need something quick and easy that will squash your hunger?

If you're like many people, that answer will depend on many things - where you are, what time of day it is, and what snacks are available in the moment.

Oftentimes convenience overrules the desire to choose something healthy. But what if you could have both? 

Episode Resources:

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How to Quickly Clean Up Your Snacking Habits [Full Text]

Today, I have a great question from Lorraine. It's all about healthy snacking. Let's dive right in. Lorraine says,

"My diet is definitely not the best. I have a sweet tooth and experience cravings most days. I know that I just need to go cold turkey and stop buying anything with sugar or any processed foods, but it's easier said than done. Even if I don't have those types of snacks in the house, there are still so many times when it's just easy to cheat. How am I going to get over this hump?"

Lorraine, you know, like most questions here, I just really want to emphasize that you are not alone. Whether it be snacking or eating what we call "unhealthy foods" throughout our day, everyone struggles with it, myself included. I'm really excited to have two very neat guests on the show today that ... These guys are the experts when it comes to specifically dealing with healthy snacking and how we can incorporate that more easily into our day.

We've got Neil Thomson and Tom Malcolm. They're the owners of a company called Naked Snacks. They are working towards making it more accessible and easier and more convenient for people to find healthy snacks. I'll let them tell you a little bit about how they're doing that and we're going to answer Lorraine's question. How do you get over the hump? How do you stay away from those unhealthy snacks? How do you deal with your cravings? How do you start eating the types of snacks that you want to eat?

Let's meet Neil and Tom.

I'm going to start with Neil. Maybe you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your interest in health and wellness, and how you got to where you are today.

Meet Neil Thomson

Neil: Yeah, thanks, Dave. My background: I grew up in South Africa. Much like life in Canada and growing up in Canada, everyone loves getting outdoors and doing lots of exercise and working out and playing sports and things. My youth as a young lad in South Africa was very much the same. Just loved the fresh air and getting out.

A big part of that, obviously, is how you fuel your body and how you keep yourself happy and strong and things. Between leaving South Africa and moving to Vancouver, when I moved over in 2008, I lived in London, England and worked very hard in the financial sector for investment banks.

I just found when I was really busy in that environment, it was so easy to default whenever I needed a snack ... You know, potato chips, vending machine, big sugary muffin from the coffee shop, anything like that. It built up on me and I felt that disconnect between what I was trying to get out of my body and what I knew to be a healthy sort of lifestyle and approach to life. I remember those being unhappy years.

At the time, I was training to run the London Marathon. That, for me, was the thing that really clicked me out of those bad habits that I'd so easily settled into.

Dave: You know what I really like about what you said, you talked about working the financial industry. I imagine you're probably pretty sedentary throughout the day?

Neil: Absolutely, yeah, and long hours. Were in the center of the city of London. My daily exercise was walking from my tiny, little apartment, up to the office, which was about a twenty minute walk, which was fantastic. Once I got there and got to my desk at sort of seven thirty, eight in the morning, it was pretty close to twelve hours of the only movement I got was really to get to a meeting room or take an elevator up or down a couple of floors. Yeah, very, very sedentary.

Dave: Oh, geez. I liked what you said is you started training for a marathon. It's neat, because once you have a specific goal like that, then it's easy to sort of ... Well, not easy, but you're motivated to re-calibrate your eating for that goal. I know a lot of the listeners, they're not training for a marathon. They don't have the specific goal. Getting in sync with healthy eating with a lifestyle that doesn't require it is way more difficult.

Neil: Yeah, it absolutely is way more difficult. I was amazed by just how ... It sounds like a funny statement ... How intelligent the body is, because when I was training for a marathon, if I picked up a bag of potato chips, I could literally, physically feel my body saying, "Step away from the potato chips and eat something different." I'd come back from a long run and my body would just say, "Go and bake a potato and make a big salad and let's get some turkey breast and some lean animal protein going." I was being directed in that direction.

Start being more physically active and your body will start demanding healthier food!

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Absolutely, like you say, when we're going about our busy lives and we're not stressing our body to a point where it is saying to us, "I need you to feed me good food." It's really up to us to just be smart about the decisions we make.

Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative), 100% agreed.

Tom, what about yourself? How did you end up in the health food industry?

And Meet Tom Malcolm

Tom: Well, I guess maybe similar to what Neil was alluding to. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, playing a lot of sports, going outdoors, doing a lot of hiking trips with my family and kind of having a lifestyle where I could eat whatever I wanted to and I would burn it off.

Through high school and then university comes where everyone has that experience where you starting drinking beer and eating pizza and not exercising nearly as much and not taking care of myself. It was around that point when, I think towards the end of my fourth at university, where I kind of took a look at myself and I realized that my exercise and intake was not sustainable.

That was kind of, at least for me, the wake up call where I started doing a regimented exercise routine and started trying to eat better and eat lean proteins, a lot of salad. Which is obviously, it's an ongoing struggle where sometimes you have a weekend where you're not as good, but you got to come back. You know that on Monday morning you feel a lot better after having gone for a run on Sunday than if you've just been vegging around doing nothing.

Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative), as you were talking about in your story there. So many of the guests that I have on the show, they talk about that similar idea of ... When we're young, early twenties, our bodies are basically like calorie burning machines. You can kind of get away with lackadaisical eating habits. Boy, does that change when you hit thirty or even late twenties.

It's Impossible to Avoid Unhealthy Food Altogether

Let's get in a little chat about Lorraine's question. Just a quick little recap here: She basically says that she is experiencing trouble with her own snacking. She talks about having sugar cravings and having a sweet tooth and tries to eliminate all sorts of processed foods from her house. Basically, it's impossible not to come across foods that are "cheat foods." She's saying, "What do I do about this?"

Maybe Neil, I'll start with you. You guys are in the business of trying to help people move away from those junk foods. What would you say to Lorraine?

Tom: Yeah, David, it is a great ... It's a problem that we all struggle with, absolutely. That's where snacking becomes such an important thing, because snacking really is a habit. It's something most people ... We did quite a bit of research in the early days. Most people snack at least a couple of times a week.

In the far extreme of that, a lot of people are snacking and using it as a meal replacement and going about their busy lives. Whether they're moms, or busy professionals, or whatever people are doing. Snacking can become something that's fairly all consuming. When we're as busy as we are, there's just that natural tendency, let's reach for the next thing that I can get. I think that's why convenience machines ... How vending machines have done so well over the years. I think it's because they're just perfectly place.

I met someone who was at a gym and complaining about all the convenience vending machines that were just packed full of unhealthy food. Then, across the road from the gym was a McDonald's. If they didn't get nailed by the vending machines, then inevitably someone would have a workout and then go straight across to McDonald's. There wasn't a lot of refuelling going on.

It's something that I experienced in London. That's where the Naked Snacks concept came from, because we looked at how we could make it as easy and low maintenance to snack more healthily.

What do you prioritize when choosing a snack? Convenience? Taste? Cost? Health?

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The 80/20 Nutritional Philosophy

A key part of that is taste and is flavour. Our eighty-twenty nutritional philosophy, which is eighty percent whole grown goodness and twenty percent what we call "Earned Indulgence" - that's really a reward for making smarter decisions.

We recognize, absolutely, because Tom and I are the same, we can have the best intentions in the world, but if we sit down with a super healthy meal in front of us or snack and it just doesn't resonate or just doesn't have taste, we need it to have taste great.

We also know that people love variety when it comes to snack time. We enjoy trying new things, different flavours and exciting snacks from different places in the world. When we go out to meals and things, if I like a Coke and that's what I'm going to go for or a certain type of coffee or a certain type of tea, I'll tend to order that over and over again. It's a little bit different when it comes to snack food, because we do crave these new experiences and these new products and things.

We've taken a lot of that and a lot of the things that we've felt ourselves and built it into the company. We're in an exciting stage now where we can hear a lot of the feedback and receive a lot of the customer feedback and really see that we are working towards our mission. Our whole mission is, "How do we make it as easy and delicious as possible for people to get healthy, lovely foods."

Dave: Yeah. You said a bunch of things in there I just want to quickly go back and highlight.

One: I had a recent podcast, it's episode #022, if anyone wants to check this out, My guest, Glenn Johnson, he's a very well renowned personal trainer. He was talking about priorities that people look for in their snacks and just meals in general. He said the first three, they kind of are interchangeable. People look for taste, convenience, and relatively low cost. He said way down on the list, number four or much lower, is that health concept. I like, Neil, what you just said there. It sounds like you guys are trying to touch on all three of those top priorities, but then also incorporating the health as well.

Neil: Yeah, absolutely, Dave. We also want to build in fun. I mean, it's fun. The online interface, the experience, everything we've set out to create is a fun experience. Whether it's interacting with us on our social channels, to the website itself, to receiving the beautiful box that we've had designed and the delicious food inside. We've tried to make it into a really lovely experience.

Does Going "Cold Turkey" Actually Work?

Dave: Tom, I just want to go back to Lorraine's question. Maybe this is something that you can shed some light on. She makes this powerful statement and says, "I know that I need to just go cold turkey and stop buying anything with sugar or any processed foods." From your experience and from doing the research that you guys have done for your business, is that true? Do people need to go cold turkey?

Tom: That's a good question, Lorraine, and one certainly that we've all grappled with. How can we improve our diet? The tendency for a lot of people, especially around New Years Resolutions, is to make all these mandates that you're going to change this and change that and altar everything 100%, top to bottom. I think it's been my experience that when you try to do those whole sale changes all at once and put so much pressure on yourself to meet those new targets that you're setting, often times it can be very difficult to achieve that. Sometimes that can lead to discouragement.

Don't go "cold turkey" on all treats. Occasional indulgences are a healthy part of life

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It would be my recommendation, certainly maybe in my own personal habits, that when you're trying to make some progress, it's better to be done incrementally. Setting targets that you can improve one week. Set something that, "I'm going to do this better than I did the week before and next week I'm going to do something even better than that."

If your goal ultimately is to remove all sugars and all processed foods, which is certainly an ambitious and honourable target, then I would applaud that. For myself, it would be tough to do just in one fell swoop. I'd kind of need to set up incremental targets and work to achieve those.

Dave: Would you say ... Because I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think that's amazing advice. Would you say that, again, from interacting with your customers, that that is what most people would find? That doing it all at once is too much?

Tom: Yeah, I think ... Well, for us, we offer a range of products that certainly enable people to meet their health and wellness targets. For us, I think one of our strengths is accessibility.

With the processed foods being so readily available every where. Every store you go to, the easiest food to consume is these processed carbohydrates. What we try do as a business model is we try provide this accessibility and convenience where someone doesn't have to go to the 7-11 and pick between a bunch of bad offerings. They can meet their health and dietary goals through accessibility and availability.

Processed carbs are everywhere. It's up to you to plan ahead to have healthier options

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Dave: Well, that's one of the things I actually like about your products, is the fact that their not just carbohydrate based. Even our meals, North American breakfasts are all carbs and our snacks are all carbs. I'm looking through the ingredients in your products. I think this goes back to Lorraine, don't beat yourself up if you eat a little bit of sugar, but try and balance that out. Get your fat and your cards and your protein. You don't have to be perfect.

Neil: Yeah, absolutely. Tom made a great point about just being forgiving.

Dave: Yeah.

Focus On What You Add, Not Only On What You Subtract

Neil: And treating ourselves kindly. We're all going to have good days and we're going to have bad days when we slip up and things. It's absolutely fine.

I think, for me, I feel good about when I add a couple more healthy things. I find that when I make that change and add a couple of extra healthy snacks or change my diet up in some small way and then feel comfortable with that and add a little bit more, in a couple of weeks time, I look back and think of all the things that I've added and I've actually stopped doing a lot of the bad habits that I was feeling responsive to. Those have fallen by the wayside, because I've brought all these new things into my diet and my routine and things. That really has helped me a lot.

Focus on adding more healthy foods to your routine, not simply removing the unhealthy ones

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Dave: Okay, Neil, that's a golden nugget. Lorraine, if you're listening to this, and anyone else who's going through similar process to Lorraine, think about what you're actually eating, not what you're trying to avoid.

I've told this story before. I did an intake process with a new client and was asking her about her diet and she said, "I'm a vegetarian." Vegetarians, in theory, are the holy grail for healthy eating. As we started to dissect her diet, it was all processed carbs. There was no meat there, but what she was actually eating was horrible. I love what you just said, because take the other approach. One healthier choice today. Just add that in, and eventually those unhealthy ones will go away.

Neil: Fantastic.

Dave: One of the other things that Lorraine talked about is she said that she's tried to remove as many of these bad options or unhealthy snacks from her house. Then when she's out throughout her day, she finds that she's always encountering ... You know, there's always going to be those options wherever you go. Neil, you even mentioned, you leave the gym and they're staring at you as soon as you leave the gym.

Tom, maybe I'll ask you: what's a strategy that someone can do so that they don't fall into that trap when they're away from home?

Tom: Boy, you're absolutely right and Neil is as well, with how much bad stuff is readily available. The worst food is the one that you can always find, no matter where you are. I think it's having a couple ... In the 7-11s, there are some healthy items. You can always ... With a little bit of searching, you can find something good to get.

I think it's just a little bit of foresight. For myself, it's really bringing some healthy alternatives with me where I go. If I'm heading out, I'll pack some snacks in my gym bag. If I'm going for a hike, same thing, kind of bringing some healthy options for us. It's always nice with what we have, resealable bags, so you don't need eat it in one portion. Fortunately, in the line of work which I am now finding myself, healthy snack foods is certainly one of the perks.

Dave: You got a lifetime supply of healthy snacks.

Tom: No shortage for us. For me, it's really just having stuff available with me and just having the foresight to have something in my car so that I'm forced to go and buy a bag of Doritos or something at the gas station when I'm going for a drive. It's just having a little bit of discipline.

Your body sometimes craves those terrible foods, but that can be a product of years of conditioning. You kind of take away one thing at a time, as Neil mentioned. Then you look back and you think, "Wow, I can't believe I used to eat all that junk."

Dave: You used the word "craving", our body starts to crave these unhealthy foods. One thing that I really try and communicate to my clients is that your breakfast dictates your food cravings for the rest of the day. If you start with a breakfast that's processed carbs, those sugar cravings or sweet cravings are going to be there.

One of your products, you have Wholesome Yogi. The ingredients there, throw that in a bowl of oatmeal, and you get this very balanced, satiating breakfast and your cravings aren't going to be nearly as bad.

Neil: Yeah, Dave, absolutely. I find too, I mean I definitely went through a stage, like I said, in London where I was at the lowest of my nutritional pursuits. I would sit down and quite easily go through a whole bag of potato chips. A large bag of potato chips in one go, and it was a piece of cake.

Now, that Wholesome Yogi is such a delicious snack. We've got about four portions in every single one of our bags. One portion is sort of a cupped handful of food. If I have a cupped handful of Wholesome Yogi, that's pretty much all that I need. I can feel the life coming. I feel myself feeling great. I can feel myself feeling satiated. If it's for breakfast, that's even better. I'm ready to start the day. The systems start firing up and off we go.

Dave: Most of your products include some sort of protein and fat, that one in particular has ... You know, you got your nuts in there. It's just such a difference from eating carbs only.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

We like to keep the show very poignant and very actionable. I like to end it with something called a Make Your Body Work Takeaway. That's just something that Lorraine or anyone else who's trying to really clean up their diet, specifically their snacking, can do today.

Maybe I'll ask you guys both this, but Tom, I'll start with you. What's one action step that people can do right now?

Tom: Yeah, that's a wonderful question and thanks for asking that, Lorraine.

I think my takeaway or my motto that I've come to develop is that you have to make your diet work for you. If it's overly grueling and taxing and so challenging to fit your diet into your new life, maybe it's time to reevaluate that and do it more incrementally where you can feel more comfortable adding on new healthy items.

Make your diet work for you. Don't try to bend to fit into a rigid diet that you can't sustain.

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Then, as Neil allude to earlier, which ultimately removes unhealthy and unwanted actions and items. Really, I think it's trying to set goals and do things incrementally, because trying to make wholesale changes in one fell swoop can be quite challenging and perhaps discouraging when you cannot immediately uptake those huge changes. For me, it's really making your diet work for you and building on what you had done previously and keep doing things in incremental ways.

That's my takeaway for that.

Dave: I love that. I love that it's got to be personalized. Both you guys mentioned or alluded to the fact that we can't beat ourselves up. Lorraine, you can't look at your sister or a friend or whoever it is and say, "Wow, they're eating this. I need to eat that." No, it's exactly what Tom said. It's got to work for you.

Neil, what about you? What's one thing that people can start doing today?

Neil: I think what I'd say to Lorraine is: always have good stuff on-hand. Whether it's in a gym bag or purse or wherever it is. In the car, if you're like us then that's a great place to have some good snack food on hand.

We're all so busy, whether we're professionals or moms. We're rushing around. We've got a thousand decisions to make in a day. Energy levels get low and depleted and that's exactly when we become susceptible to making decisions that aren't in our best interest.

If we can make it easy for ourselves to have a healthy snack that's right there, it's just a simple case the decision's already been made for us. Reach into the purse, it's in the car door, off you go. It's all about just making it easier for ourselves to make good decisions.

Make life easier. Remove the decisions. Have healthy snacks on-hand all the time.

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Dave: I couldn't agree more. You are preaching to the choir. Make it easy on yourself.

Guys, I really appreciate this, that you're going to help our audience make things a little bit easier. Anyone that's listening, Neil and Tom have been very gracious in offering a special offer for anyone who listens to the podcast.

If you go to, you can go through and take a look at all of their products and you can get them for yourselves, you can send them as a gift. Again, I'm going to plug Wholesome Yogi, because it's amazing. If you use the promotion or the coupon code MakeYourBodyWork. That's just all one word, MakeYourBodyWork, then they're going to give you ten dollars off your order.

Guys, maybe you can just talk about ... This is across Canada? What's your geographic range?

Neil: Yeah, that's right. We shop throughout Canada, all ten provinces.

Dave: Awesome, awesome. Before we go, tell me what's your favorite snack? Neil, what's yours?

Neil: Mine's Hearty Tamari. I cannot get enough of Hearty Tamari.

Tom: I like the Sunshine Mango. It's organic and fantastic.

Dave: Awesome. Well, thanks guys, for joining us on the podcast. Thanks for you insights and thanks for the offer that you gave us. I know everyone's going to appreciate that.

Neil: Yeah, thank you, Dave. This was a lot of fun. Best of luck to everyone.

Thanks for joining me today!

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