THINNER YOU: Snacking Healthy

BY LIZ NOELCKE of SPARKPEOPLE

While some dieters happily accept when someone suggests a snack, others feel pangs of guilt when a nibble is merely suggested. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with a bite between meals. In fact, snacking might be the missing ingredient that will help you reach your weight loss goals.

But how can this make sense, since snacking theoretically adds calories?

Snacking doesn’t serve to replace a meal. In fact, you should spread meals and snacks out by an hour or two, and snacks should total a couple hundred calories or less.

Munching between meals can actually reduce your overall caloric intake by curbing overeating at your next meal By controlling later binging, snacking can help you stay on track. You can actually use this to your advantage. If you know you are going out to a big dinner with friends later, for example, make sure you have a healthy snack before you head out so you’re less likely to order (and finish) a large entree.

How You Snack Can Make or Break Your Diet

There is definitely a wrong way and a right way to snack. You should avoid sugary items like candy and soda, and shouldn’t be consuming enough calories to constitute a meal. Instead, steer toward foods that will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller longer. Fruits and vegetables are always a safe bet because they are low in fat and calories. (Just be sure to avoid high-calorie dips.) Yogurt, fruit smoothies, even a slice of whole-wheat toast all make great snacks during the day. Combining lean protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates will help you feel fuller longer.

Mini Meals

Many experts are recommending several smaller meals throughout the day instead of the usual three. By eating at regular intervals, your blood sugar levels (and therefore your energy levels) remain stable. So, instead of that mid-afternoon crash, you’ll be full of vigor through dinnertime! Eating every few hours (especially if you chew on fruits and veggies) can also help add extra nutrition that might be missing from other meals.

Snacking Isn’t Grazing

Mindless eating is often the downfall of many snackers. You may start with only a handful of your favorite crackers, only to finish the entire box, without even thinking about it. Obviously, this example isn’t the healthy snacking that can help you reach your weight loss goals.

To avoid grazing:

Fill a small plate with your snack, and leave the kitchen. Just walk away. When your plate is empty, snack time is over.

Never bring the entire container with you in front of the television or computer. Enjoy your snack without distraction and you won’t be tempted to reach for more.

If you stand around the snack table chatting at a party, you may find yourself reaching for food when the conversation lulls. This can often lead to an unintentional binge because you simply aren’t paying attention to what you are eating.

Limit yourself to a single serving.

Plan out your snacks just like you would a meal. Is one cookie worth the calorie cost, when you could eat a plate of fresh fruit instead?

Practice Moderation

As with the rest of your diet, moderation is crucial when snacking. Make sure that you are adding every snack to your  Nutrition Tracker, along with the larger meals you eat during the day. If you don’t keep track, you might add excess calories and fat to your diet without realizing it.

Don’t sabotage your diet with unhealthy nibbles throughout the day; stick to nourishing foods whenever possible. If you know you have a weakness for junk food, do yourself a favor and don’t purchase these items next time you are at the grocery store. Then you won’t have to fight the temptation of ice cream or potato chips when hunger pangs hit.

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  • 4 comments Add your comment

    Scuba Steve

    August 28th, 2009
    2:05 pm

    Good advice…I have lost 71 lbs in five months by following this method. Definitely use a calorie tracker…it definitely makes you realize what you are putting into your body.

    KA

    August 30th, 2009
    8:54 am

    “Combining lean protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates will help you feel fuller longer.” This is absolutely true for anyone. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago and got my blood sugar under control within 4 months using that formula for all of my meals and snacks: snacks 100-200 calories, meals 300-400 calories with half the plate green vegetables or salad. This allows for energy release over time to keep me going with no sugar high, no crashes, and no binging when I get home from work. I avoid processed foods with white flour, added sugars (especially high fructose sugar), and high fat. I walk every day. Caloriecount.com is a great resource I use to see how many calories, fat, carbs and protein is in any food. Track your calories to really see where you add unhealthy foods and eat too much. My advice in the grocery store is to totally avoid the aisles with sweet bakery goods, crackers & chips, soft drinks, and frozen prepared meals. Choose fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, low-fat or no-fat dairy products, and canned goods with low sugar, salt and fat. Wean yourself from sugar, fat and salt and you will feel better and you will find you don’t even like fatty and sugary foods any more.

    Mrs M

    August 30th, 2009
    6:26 pm

    The suggestions are great and I really try to do that, although I don’t need to loose any weight, I just want to stay healthy.
    My problem is to find food for real meals without sugar or sweeteners. It’s nearly impossible! Sauces, dressings, breads, potato chips, yogurt, whatever, contains sugar or some kind of fructose/sweetener. This is terribly annoying. I wish the food industry would think of their customers health…

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