Nutrition-wise blog

Strategies for dealing with snack attacks

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. January 23, 2013

It's a couple of hours past dinner and you wander into the kitchen and open the cupboards looking for a snack. You're not alone. More than half of Americans are doing the same thing — snacking on impulse or as a treat or for no particular reason at all. That doesn't bode well for our waistlines.

Does that mean snacking is bad? Not necessarily. Snacking can be a strategy to control hunger and overall calorie intake, if done smartly.

Snack because you are hungry. Not because it looks good, smells good, or that you know it tastes good. Remind yourself that the opportunity to eat that same snack will present itself another day. Call it success if you can indulge less often rather than at every opportunity.

Snack if you're routinely hungry at a certain time of day. Plan for it. Be prepared with a low-calorie snack with some redeeming qualities such as key nutrients. Try fruits and vegetables alone or in combination with a moderate portion of lean protein or healthy fat. Good options include low-fat yogurt, an ounce of cheese, hummus or a few nuts.

If you're not hungry, don't snack. Instead ask yourself why you're drawn to snacking. Here are common triggers — and ideas for dealing with them:

  • Boredom? Try a new activity or tackle a few things on your to-do list.
  • Anxious? Try some deep breathing or other stress-management techniques.
  • Habit? Make a new one. Try exercising, playing a game or writing in a journal.

The next time a snack attack hits, ask yourself these questions: Are you hungry because you ate a light dinner three hours ago? Or do you and the chips have a regular date on the couch? If so, what else could fill your time before bed? Or are you just tired and need to go to bed?

Lastly, be honest with yourself. If you're going to snack despite all of the above, choose low-calorie snacks, such as raw veggies, and munch away.

To your health,

Katherine

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Jan. 23, 2013