One of my biggest challenges on the road to weight loss and healthy eating is snacking. I seem to have my healthy meals down OK but snacking, especially in the evening can be a problem, and I am sure I am not alone.
Snacks are OK, but you need healthy snacks, and you need to watch how big your snack is or your snack becomes another meal. The dictionary defines snack as a small amount of food eaten between meals.
If your snack is a couple of sandwiches and a pile of potato chips, that’s a meal. From a calorie perspective, if it is over 300 or 400 calories, it could be called a small meal.
I chose to call this entry “snack attack” because snacking can easily get out of hand and can attack your success on this journey.
Once I realized that I am a snacker, I had to change what I snack on and when I snack. Let me explain the “what” first.
I found some great healthy snack ideas on the Canadian Dietitians website. Here are just a few.
- Medium piece of fruit like an apple or a banana
- 250 ml (1 cup) of frozen or fresh fruit like peaches, blueberries, strawberries etc.
- A stalk of celery with low fat cottage cheese (my own preference is with low fat or natural peanut butter)
- 2 cups air popped popcorn (watch the butter and salt)
- 1 cup cut up veggies like carrots with some hummus.
- 1/2 a bagel with some peanut or other nut butter. (I like the Weight Watchers thin bagels)
If you want to read more about snacking ideas, check out http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Healthy-Snacks-for-Adults.aspx
Almost more import than the snack itself is when and even why you are snacking.
Do you snack a lot at night? It’s a habit I have to really work to control. If you graze all night long as you sit watching TV, you can take in an amazing amount of calories. After that you go to bed and those calories just lie there. You haven’t had enough activity to burn them off. Don’t think though, that because you went for a walk with the dog, that it entitles you to another snack. Trust me, you did not burn it off.
Another “when” is to look at what you are doing while you snack. Are you actively doing something else? For example, I have to force myself not to snack while I am on the computer. If I am working on writing a new show, or researching something or even writing this blog, it can be really easy to focus on the activity and not the food.
If you are focused on something, you may be unaware of how much you are actually eating. Snacking while watching TV can be bad too. If you get really involved in the show, you can be mindlessly shoveling food.
The other thing that is important is to ask yourself WHY you are snacking. For example, are you really hungry or are you bored? Are you snacking out of habit, like making a snack to have while watching TV because that is what you always do?
Habits can become deeply ingrained. I remember when my mom quit smoking. She always said the hardest time was first thing in the morning because she would have that first cigarette and coffee. It was a habit that started her day.
I have been reading some fascinating articles lately on so called healthy snack bars, only to find out that they are almost as full of calories and sugar as a candy bar. If you do have to have a snack that comes in a package, read that label carefully.
Another snacking trend is the 100 calorie packages of cookies and other snacks. First off, none of them are particularly healthy for you but at least the portion control is in check – right? Maybe not.
We were talking about these 100 calorie snacks at a TOPS meeting once and I said I like the 100 calorie chocolate chip cookies because I eat a bag and think “Wow I got to eat a whole bag of cookies!” while one of the other members said “I look at it and think ‘It’s only 100 calories – I can have 3 more!'”
The 100 calorie snack packs can be handy if you need a snack on the go, or at work, but you can save money and have a healthier snack by packing your own.
I love the fact that you can get Ziploc bags in a snack size. They are perfect to put in a few nuts or some trail mix or even some of that air popped popcorn, and they can go in a purse, briefcase, gym bag or even a coat pocket.
Something I do that seems to help cut down the snacking urge is having water or other drink nearby. Often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty.
I find a warm beverage (in my case tea) seems to give more of a feeling of satiety (being full). I am not saying drink coffee or tea all day because they are both diuretics, but you might try a nice chicken or vegetable broth.
Be careful with commercially made broths, especially those concentrated cubes as they are often LOADED with salt. Look for natural broths or even better, make you own.
I have a preference for vegetable broth myself with chicken broth being a good second. I find them nice to sip on and they really do keep the hunger at bay.
So to summarize, keep the size of your snack small, keep it healthy, and keep yourself from being too focused on your activities to pay attention to the snacking.
In a work environment, keep healthy snacks nearby so you are not tempted to go to the vending machine or convenience store.
A trip to the dollar store for some small containers for snack on the go is a good idea too.
I hope that helps you to prevent Snacks from Attacking you!
Until next time have a healthy and happy day!