Gamer guide to snacking: 7 healthy gamer snacks
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A snack can be any food eaten in smaller quantities between full meals. Generally speaking, snacking or grazing is not the recommended technique for consuming your daily nutrients. However, it is also not always easy to commit to three full meals without the occasional snack—especially while gaming and/or streaming.
Despite being a less-than-optimal habit, we recognize the inevitability of snacking. And so, we have compiled a list of seven healthy gamer snacks for you to enjoy while playing that will reduce the potential ill-effects of snacking or grazing.
Warning: this page only discusses the health quality of food items and is not a recommendation to consume any particular food. Many people have specific allergies to food items on this list. Do not consume any food on this list if you have an allergy to to that food or family of foods. Consult your doctor if you have questions about your allergies.
Why you should try to eat full meals
Many people find it difficult to break away from their work or other activities to prepare a full meal—let alone repeat that task three times per day, every day. Thus, many of us rely on snacking between meals or grazing throughout the day rather than consuming larger meals.
The benefit of three, larger meals spread throughout the day is that you can effectively decrease the number of times your pancreas releases insulin while also decreasing the area under the insulin curve. So, what does that mean?
The role of insulin
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas. Most people recognize insulin’s effect on blood sugar and assume the sole purpose of this hormone is to lower blood sugar. And yes, insulin does result in a lowering of your blood sugar, but the role of insulin is energy storage.
Insulin responds most heavily to the ingestion of carbohydrates (sugar). In fact, an injection containing same quantity of carbohydrate will raise blood sugar equally but will not result in the same level of insulin response.
Additionally, there would be a slight increase in insulin following ingestion of fat without carbohydrate. These two examples of insulin’s response to different macronutrients support that insulin is not a hormone that exists simply to reduce blood sugar concentration but rather to store energy.
Insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance
Insulin sensitivity refers to the ability of your cells to respond to insulin and utilize the energy (primarily, glucose) that insulin carries. If you have high insulin sensitivity, your body is efficiently responding to the food you consume by transporting and utilizing the energy.
Insulin resistance, on the other hand, is when your body is poorly responding to the food you consume. With insulin resistance, the transport and utilization of energy is negatively affected, and blood sugar begins to rise. If insulin resistance is not addressed, it may lead to type-2 diabetes, obesity, and other complications including cardiovascular disease.
Potential problems with frequent snacking
As previously mentioned, fewer, larger meals will decrease the frequency in which insulin is being released. This eating habit is one way to maintain insulin sensitivity and will help to prevent insulin resistance. Other habits include limiting or avoiding processed carbohydrates and instead eating whole food carbohydrates, eating your carbohydrates last (after meat or other proteins and fats), and exercising.
Frequent snacking increases the frequency in which your pancreas releases insulin. Like most other physiologic processes, frequent exposure leads to tolerance. Tolerance to insulin is otherwise known as insulin resistance—the foundation of metabolic issues such as type-2 diabetes.
How you can snack healthy
As previously mentioned, frequent snacking or grazing has the potential to raise your insulin too frequently—possibly leading to insulin resistance. However, you can limit your insulin response each time you eat by choosing healthier snack choices, and this will help to reduce the likelihood of developing insulin resistance.
The most effective ways to limit insulin spikes are to limit or avoid sugar and other carbohydrates, choose foods with higher quantities of fat and/or fiber, and eat unprocessed foods.
Two other benefits of consuming snack foods with higher fat content include faster and more prolonged satiety (the sensation of feeling full or “not hungry”) and being cardioprotective, or heart healthy.*
*Collectively, monounsaturated fatty acids are the most cardioprotective. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include tree nuts, peanuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil. Monounsaturated fat sources make up the majority of our healthy gamer snacks list.
Healthy gamer snacks
We have compiled this list of healthy gamer snacks that will fuel your gameplay, limit your insulin spikes, and reduce the area under your insulin curve. Many of these snacks are nuts; and, frequently, people elect to buy salted nuts. If you choose to buy salted nuts, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Additionally, for all items on the list, we are recommending natural and/or organic foods. For example, organic peanuts or natural/organic peanut butter vs. Skippy or Jiffy brand. The latter brands have added sugar and other ingredients which counter the goal of our healthy gamer snacks to limit insulin response.
Almonds or almond butter
Almonds or almond butter are perfect healthy gamer snacks—assuming, of course, you do not have an allergy to them. If you choose almond butter, we suggest eating it with celery rather than bread, crackers, or rice cakes in order to help keep your insulin under control.
An interesting finding about almonds is that your body will not absorb their total energy (Calories). Researchers have found that your body will generally absorb ~68 to 83% of the calories reported on nutrition labels for whole almonds (not almond butter). In other words, eating 100 calories of whole almonds will result in absorption of ~68-83 calories.
The researchers indicate the most likely reason for this discrepancy is due to intact cell walls surrounding lipids and other molecules making them unavailable for digestion and absorption. This is a similar but unique mechanism from insoluble fiber in foods that interrupts digestion and absorption.
Note: the calorie discrepancy is for whole almonds only and is not present in almond butter. In the semi-solid state, the plant’s cell walls have been destroyed and the lipids are available to digestion and absorption.
According to the USDA, these are the summarized macronutrient facts for almonds, serving size: 1 oz (28.35 g)
- Calories: 164
- Protein: 6 g
- Fat: 14.2 g
- Saturated: 1.08 g
- Monounsaturated: 8.94 g
- Polyunsaturated: 3.5 g
- Carbohydrate: 6.11 g
- Fiber: 3.54 g
- Total sugar: 1.23 g
Macadamia nuts or macadamia nut butter
Like almonds, macadamia nuts or its macadamia nut butter are excellent healthy gamer snacks if you are not allergic. Again, if you decide on using the nut butter alternative, we urge you to use celery rather than bread, crackers, or rice cakes in order to help keep your insulin under control.
According to the USDA, these are the summarized macronutrient facts for macadamia nuts, serving size: 1 oz (28.35 g)
- Calories: 203
- Protein: 2.21 g
- Fat: 21.6 g
- Saturated: 3.39 g
- Monounsaturated: 16.8 g
- Polyunsaturated: 0.425 g
- Carbohydrate: 3.64 g
- Fiber: 2.27 g
- Total sugar: 1.17 g
Cashews or cashew butter
Like the previous two nuts, cashews and cashew butter are excellent healthy gamer snacks if you are not allergic. And, again, if you decide on using the nut butter alternative, we continue to recommend you use celery rather than bread, crackers, or rice cakes in order to help keep your insulin under control.
According to the USDA, these are the summarized macronutrient facts for cashews, serving size: 1 oz (28.35 g)
- Calories: 163
- Protein: 4.43 g
- Fat: 13.1 g
- Saturated: 2.6 g
- Monounsaturated: 7.74 g
- Polyunsaturated: 2.22 g
- Carbohydrate: 9.27 g
- Fiber: 0.851 g
- Total sugar: 1.42 g
Following the trend of nuts as healthy gamer snacks, pistachios are yet another. Likewise, be sure you are not allergic to pistachios prior to eating or touching them.
According to the USDA, these are the summarized macronutrient facts for pistachios, serving size: 1 oz (28.35 g)
- Calories: 162
- Protein: 5.97 g
- Fat: 13 g
- Saturated: 1.6 g
- Monounsaturated: 6.96 g
- Polyunsaturated: 3.78 g
- Carbohydrate: 8.02 g
- Fiber: 2.92 g
- Total sugar: 2.19 g
Peanuts or peanut butter
While technically not a nut, peanuts—in the family of legumes—and peanut butter are healthy gamer snacks for those not allergic. And, again, if you decide on using the nut butter alternative, we continue to recommend you use celery rather than bread, crackers, or rice cakes in order to help keep your insulin under control.
According to the USDA, these are the summarized macronutrient facts for peanuts, serving size: 1 oz (28.35 g)
- Calories: 166
- Protein: 6.9 g
- Fat: 14.1 g
- Saturated: 2.19 g
- Monounsaturated: 7.42 g
- Polyunsaturated: 2.77 g
- Carbohydrate: 6.03 g
- Fiber: 2.38 g
- Total sugar: 1.39 g
Avocado or guacamole
If peanuts or tree nuts are not your favorite, avocados or guacamole are other delicious and healthy gamer snacks. If you decide to mash your avocado(s) into guacamole, we recommend eating it with hard boiled eggs, turkey meat roll-ups, grain free tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or almond flour crackers rather than bread, wheat or grain crackers, or rice cakes in order to help keep your insulin under control.
Avocados have often been described as “super foods” because of their nutrient rich and heart-healthy qualities. Avocados are a good source of many vitamins (Vitamin B6 and C, for example) and minerals (potassium), dietary fiber (~10 g), and a high volume of the heart-healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids (14.3 g).
According to the USDA, these are the summarized macronutrient facts for avocados, serving size: 1 cup (146 g)
- Calories: 234
- Protein: 2.92 g
- Fat: 21.4 g
- Saturated: 3.1 g
- Monounsaturated: 14.3 g
- Polyunsaturated: 2.65 g
- Carbohydrate: 12.5 g
- Fiber: 9.78 g
- Total sugar: 0.964 g
Boikey’s brand biltong (beef jerky)
Biltong is similar to beef jerky—a lean meat that is cured and spiced—native to southern African countries. Beef jerky and biltong are, if done correctly, excellent healthy gamer snacks. A good brand will use natural spices and quality meats.
Boikey’s brand is our recommendation for such a brand. Please note, Esports Healthcare does not have any affiliation with this brand. This is a brand we support due to its high quality ingredients.
These are the summarized macronutrient facts for Boikey’s brand biltong, serving size: 56 g
- Calories: 160
- Protein: 32 g
- Fat: 2 g
- Saturated: 1 g
- Monounsaturated: not specified
- Polyunsaturated: not specified
- Carbohydrate: 1 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Total sugar: 0 g