The day I lost my flight I learned about British obesity and healthy snacking

Yesterday I was supposed to fly to Amsterdam. I go to the Netherlands often and I always flight from London City Airport. So also yesterday afternoon I left my office on time and took the train and the tube to go there. Three stops before the airport I had a thought “how come the flight is scheduled 7 minutes later than usual?”. The answer came straight away from my boarding pass: departure “Heathrow airport”. One minute to panic, one minute to think about a solution, one minute to realise there was no easy solution. I ended up booking a flight for the very next morning, and right now I am on my way to the airport, hopefully the right one, this time!
This unexpected accident though gave me the chance to spend over three hours on public transport during dinner time, between 5.30 to 9pm, while I usually travel through public transport earlier than that. I started getting hungry (no surprise, as I snack every 3 hours usually) so I distractedly looked around and found interest in what people in the tube were eating. And it was a revelation.
A woman was sitting and reading Metro newspaper. Her eyes quickly moving right and left, all excited about learning how Brooke Shields lost her virginity. Her hands were picking, one by one, in a frenetic movement, colorful “candy coated buttons” from M&S. In four tube stations the packet was empty and, distractedly, she carefully folded the empty packaging, placed it in her handbag where her hand started exploring hoping to find another candy bag. Disappointment: there were no more left.

Two girls on my right were chatting cheerfully. One was so loud she seemed no to mind sharing with the rest of the tube coach the fact her best friend was cheating on her boyfriend (btw Linda – that’s the name she mentioned few times – I think it’s time to make a decision and leave him or start behaving!). Anyway they were both grazing something between a smile and few words; M&Ms and Haribo sweets. The guy standing near the door wasn’t bothered by being stuffed like a sardine in the tube; he was perfectly managing drinking beer from a can and ingurgitating (more than nibbling) a large packet of crisps.
When I had to change tube line things didn’t change much: a group of blokes were eating Pringles, a girl must have split from her boyfriend as she was attempting finishing a family pack of candies, two mature women were happily eating chocolate-coated raisins and flapjack and toffee bites.
The whole bunch of commuters was eating shi… ehm… Unhealthy food. And those who were eating this food were mostly overweight. Don’t get me wrong; I am not slim neither I give up my slices of cakes or snacks! And all this snack watching made me hungry, so once at Waterloo Station I decided to grab a quick pre-dinner snack myself. Though I wanted a relatively healthy one as it was way past 8pm; chocolate bars, yogurt coated nuts, sugar glazed almonds, crisps…I had to check three different shops to eventually find some plain almonds and an apple. No wonder UK is witnessing a huge increase in obesity: the shops are loaded with colorful sugar cr*p and it takes you so much time to grab something healthy when you need a snack on the go!

What do you usually eat when you need a snack in the afternoon? Now, if you are hungry and you are craving dinner and you know you are going to get stuck in a tube or a train, think twice before grabbing your snack. My advice is to eat something you like of course, but also something healthy, as this is only a snack you want to eat to prepare your stomach for dinner. So my advice is:
– avoid sweetened “healthy” food (if you buy nuts get the simple ones, and avoid sugar coating, double chocolate glazed and similar),
– avoid any candy (candy buttons contains just sugar and do not add anything healthy to your daily diet; eating one package every working day of 60g coated candy buttons turns out to be around 14kgs of sugar in one year; just for that tiny bite of candies!!!!
– any cake/chocolate (eating sweets during daytime is ok-ish but if you eat them from late afternoon onward there is a low chance your body will use them as you are likely to be sitting on the couch all night, so all the sugar will turn into fat).
– avoid crisps and fried stuff (as for the sweet candies, there is no nutritional benefit from them apart from a load of artificial chemicals, fried oil, lots of salt and a bit of potato)
– pick something not-processed (an apple, any fruit, a small bag of carrots, few nuts; there are all things that are a perfect snack-on-the-go, are healthy, give you vitamins, good oils, and other elements your body benefits from. And most of all they satisfy that sense of empty stomach due both to real hunger but also to stress of the commute, stress of life, anxiety and all those other things that push us to eat more and eat often.

Is a handful of coated candy buttons a day worth gaining 3.5-4kgs extra weight in one year? If your answer is yes then…go ahead and eat them! But if your answer is no, then next time you commute to home and are hungry, grab an apple! You will benefit from a healthier meal, lots of vitamins, fructose sugar to help you keep going, hunger relief and a slimmer body. It sounds like a good deal to me!
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Alessio
Hallo! I’m Alessio: an Italian geek with the passion for food and travel. I’m originally from Umbria Region - the Green hearth of Italy - and currently live in London. I’m often on a plane, travelling somewhere either for work or holidays. This is my little corner of the world where I share my tasty recipes, tips on how to cook, restaurants to try and places to visit, including my beautiful Umbria.

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