Weekends have earned a bad reputation for throwing you off track but before you blame it on a Saturday night outing, check your work day for hidden traps.

It’s 3pm and you’re in a familiar standoff with the foyer vending machine. While dietitians promote regular snacking to avert overeating and buoy metabolism, many snacks have the opposite effect, promoting cravings. We asked dietitians Dr Joanna McMillan, Lyndi Polivnick and Larina Robinson to detox the desk drawers.

» Portion size/kJs – Keep snacks to 600 to 800 kJ. If you’re training for more than an hour a day, increase the energy count of each snack or add one or two extras. Just don’t forget that a post-workout recovery shake counts towards daily calorie quota.

» Sodium –  Low-sodium foods contain less than 120 mg per 100 g of product, Dr McMillan says. Dietary guidelines recommend keeping daily sodium intake below 1,600 mg, so avoid high-sodium foods, which can tip in 600 mg per 100 g.

» Sugar/sweeteners – The anti-sugar paradigm has indoctrinated otherwise-sane people into the ranks of fruitphobia, but it’s important to recognise the difference between refined and natural sugars. Unlike in the US, this is not defined on Australian packaging. “You can only get an indication of this by reading the ingredients list,” says Dr McMillan.

“If sugar, syrup or one of the many other guises of added sugar are near the top of the list, it’s a major ingredient.” Look for those with a ‘no added sugar’ claim. Artificial sweeteners should be taken on their merits. “If you are trying to reduce your overall sugar intake and don’t mind a slight aftertaste, erythritol or Stevia are the most natural sugar replacements,” Robinson says. Despite some evidence that artificial sweeteners can confuse the body into producing insulin as it would in response to sugar, inducing blood sugar instability and concomitant sugar cravings, Polivnick says sweeteners can assist with weight loss and maintenance.

» Macro ratio – Despite widespread hypervigilance (thank you, Atkins), there’s no reason to demonise carbs. In fact, skipping starch may make you moodier than a pit bull. But choose low-GI carbs and pair them with protein. “Aim to have five to 10 grams of protein in each snack,” Robinson says.

“Protein helps to reduce the overall glycaemic load of the food by taking longer to digest than high-GI carbohydrates such as refined grains and sugar. This helps you to feel fuller for longer, and avoids craving-inducing crashes in blood sugar.” Look for ingredients like oats and real fruit.

“Low-GI, wholefood sources high in fibre will satisfy your hunger for longer, and help to reduce your appetite.”

Check out our 10 step guide to clean eating to kickstart your healthy journey.