Snack Attack

Dear Christy,

I am trying to watch my weight, especially as we head into the holiday season, but my biggest problem is that I am always hungry and always snacking and reaching for the wrong foods. What is wrong with me?

Barb in Minnesota

Dear Barb,

First of all, healthy snacking can be a great addition to any healthy eating plan. Snacks can help manage hunger and reduce binging. The problem is when the snacking becomes less healthy and starts tipping the scale the other way. It sounds like this is more your concern here.

There area few areas to consider when trying to curb the snack attack when it does start tipping into the unhealthy zone. I always check to see what type of meals you are eating – is the profile of your meal what is leaving you unsatisfied? Are you including adequate protein and some healthy fats with your meals to leave you satisfied? Do your meals have fiber in them to help you feel fuller longer? Are you eating enough? Are you skipping any meals or skimping on any? Is that 100-calorie yogurt for breakfast leaving you famished by mid morning? These answers help us pinpoint where the area of weakness is. Your meals might be leaving you hungry for more.

Next I always start looking at the behavioral components of snacking. When working with clients I always have them check two things before they grab that snack. First, are you thirsty? Often times we confuse our thirst for hunger. Grab a glass of water and drink that before checking in again. To make it easier for me to stay better hydrated I keep a pitcher of water with lemon slices in it in the fridge so I have a refreshing beverage ready at all times.

Mindless Munching? All too often we reach for that item sitting there on the counter when we are not even hungry at all. I always recommend keeping food stored away from our sight, BUT you can leave a bowl of fresh cut up vegetables or fresh fruit on the counter. This way if you do grab a quick snack you are grabbing something healthy. 9 times out of ten if I have prepped a bowl of cut up veggies and if I leave them out, I will eat them. If they are in the fridge and un-prepped chances are they will end up uneaten. Never eat while in front of the television. This also leads to mindless munching – one or two handfuls quickly turns into the whole bag of chips being consumed because we are not plugged in to listening to our body. You could also be grabbing snacks because you are bored – quickly divert and have your mind engage in something else for 5-10 minutes. In one of my classes they all agreed on 5 boredom busters to do and one of them was to do 25 sit ups and 5 push ups. They found that focusing on a healthy boredom buster kept their focus on their ultimate wellness goals.

If you are really craving an unhealthy snack, it is okay to enjoy every now and then – check in with your thirst first, grab a healthy snack and then have a small portion of the snack you were craving. This leaves you satisfied and you will not feel deprived. Feeling deprived after a couple days often leads to binging. Having a healthy snack first like a small apple or 4-6 oz. of low fat or nonfat Greek yogurt will keep your hunger at bay so you can enjoy a smaller portion of your craved snack.

If you are hungry between meals, plan ahead. Keep healthy snacks on hand and pre-protion healthy snacks to maintain portion control. Like our meals, snacks should have some carbohydrate and protein together. Carbohydrates fuel our brain and body, but are quickly digested within 1-1.5 hours. Adding protein, high fiber foods and/or good fats, keeps our energy level up by lengthening the time of digestion. This keeps us full longer!

Some healthy snack ideas:

Celery and raw almond butter
Hummus and carrot sticks
Fresh cut up vegetables and hummus or low fat dip
Greek yogurt
Hard-boiled egg
Low fat or fat free yogurt with a few almonds (10)
Small handful of a fruit and nut trail mix
Crispbread crackers like Wasa and Rykrisp brands with a nut butter or “schmear” of hummus

My favorite “go to” snacks:
Trader Joe’s Omega prepackaged trail mix
A handful of whole grain pretzel sticks & light mozzarella cheese stick
Kashi Dark Chocolate Coconut Layered Granola Bar
Brown rice cake and almond butter
½ cup leftover hearty vegetable (bean based) soup

Hopefully these tips will help you examine your snack patterns and help you beat that snack trap.

Be strong – inside and out!
Christy, MS RD – Consultant Dietitian and Nutrition Educator

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Please Note: Nutrition information is provided by Christy, MS RD. The information provided is to be used as a guideline only.  Every person will vary in their nutritional needs and certain conditions require special nutrition attention.


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