“IF you are hungry then have a snack.”

I was expecting to be duly reprimanded for so much as considering scoffing a cereal bar at 4pm – much too late to be passed off as a sneaky post-lunch dessert and creeping too close to dinner time threatening to spoil my appetite.

And yet nutritional therapist Caroline Peyton was inviting me to indulge (within reason) in a guilt-free afternoon nibble.

The dos and don’ts drilled into my mind from the cradle had been pure balderdash.

Growing up, if I wasn’t told off for sneaking bread, sweets, biscuits or anything within my limited reach (I had to stack dictionaries on a kitchen chair to reach the snacks shelf – my mother was truly evil) into my room at least once day, something was wrong.

I may have made short shrift of my stick-thin mother’s advice for years but it does not mean I didn’t believe her. I’ve just never had any self-control and as acts of rebellion go it still did the trick.

Until I met Caroline, I truly perceived snacking of any kind to be a crime against wholesomeness.

Her suggestion of celery and hummus, my snack of choice, left me frankly baffled.

All this time I had been healthy without realising it.

This small victory was short-lived as Caroline proceeded to dissect my diet and get to the bottom of my ever plummeting energy levels.

Ready to conquer the world at 8.30am, I was a sluggish wreck by 11am, craving an early lunch and only able to survive till noon thanks to strategically timed caffeine fixes (around seven daily) and one of my beloved raw fruit and nut bars – for which I had developed a worrisome addiction.

By 2pm, after a lunch of vegetable soup and bread or a ham sandwich, I was taking a ravenous bite of yet another fruit nugget until I crashed again at 4pm. By dinner time I was famished, my brain had turned to mush, and despite the gallons of tea coursing through my body left strangely dehydrated.

I was running ragged and had to resign myself to the fact that I must know nothing about nutrition if an apparently healthy if a tad carbohydrate-heavy diet was reducing me to a zombie-like state.

I needed professional help.

Nutritional therapy takes a natural approach using diet, lifestyle and where required, nutritional supplements, to help the body to achieve and maintain optimum health. It looks beyond the symptoms, to establish the root cause of ailments like poor digestion, toxicity and food and nutrient imbalances and deficiencies.

As daunting as it may sound, it’s all about making simple changes to our diets. And in my case, I had been seeking energy boosts in all the wrong places, although as Caroline kindly pointed she was not in the habit of assigning blame or barking orders. Not once during as consultation did she tut, shake her head or urge me to ‘stop eating this or that’. She simply handed out tips and suggestions, which have all proven to be spot-on since our appointment earlier this year.

First of all, she did a little digging and gathered some interesting (and somewhat crushing facts) about the fruit bars I had been gobbling up.

They were packed with carbs and sugars - natural sugars but sugars nonetheless. Add to this a protein-deficient diet and the perfect storm of caffeine, which incidentally causes dehydration, and you had a recipe for disaster.

“It’s very much about balance,” explained Caroline. “Our bodies try to keep our blood sugar levels within a certain range. What we aim for is a steady release of glucose from our foods throughout the day to help stay on an even keel. But if you choose foods that are carbohydrate rich and predominantly those high in simple sugars, blood sugar levels may jump too high. Insulin's role is to assist moving the glucose into cells where it is used for energy but if there is too much glucose in the blood it often tries to store it as fat. And as a consequence blood sugar levels may then start dropping. We might feel tired and lack concentration. You might start craving tea, coffee and stimulants or sugary foods. They will all raise blood sugar levels again so you get this yoyo effect. It can leave you feeling drained of energy.”

Again, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. The problems were not where I had expected to find them. Even my poor homemade vegetable soup (again more carbohydrates and no proteins in sight) was not helping matters. I was trapped in a sugar-coated vicious circle.

Leaving me to ponder her advice she proceeded to offer practical alternatives. Why not give cashew butter on oatcakes a taste? This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but as a huge fan of peanut butter and oat cakes, it ticked all the right boxes and has become my go-to breakfast.

Pulses and lentils are also now firm diet staples. The yoyo has been wound back for good.

Nutritional therapy does not merely look at the content of our plates but the way in which we physically eat as well as our pace.

For my part, I had suffered from bloating for years. This was swiftly explained by my unladylike tendency to take enormous bites, swallow them at record speed, omitting that all important step: chewing.

Indeed as Caroline pointed out ‘Your stomach doesn’t have teeth.” Smaller, chewed bites, certainly have remedied this long-term problem. Drinking a glass of water cut with a teaspoon of lemon juice to help increase the acidity in the stomach and create the right digestive environment also fostered a smoother post-meal response.

It may be a cliché but you can eat and even snack yourself healthy.

Needless to say I cut down my tea intake by more than half and replaced many of my daily soot black brews with the herbal equivalent. I have the occasional relapse but overall the (parched) dog days are over.

Caroline is a nutritional therapist and naturopath based at Wood Street Wellbeing in Old Town. To find out more about nutritional therapy or to seek advice visit peytonprinciples.com, call 07730 513303 or email caroline@peytonprinciples.com.