Whether your snack attack hits in the middle of the afternoon or during late-night TV, it can damage your weight-maintenance plan. Mindless snacking will put back on those pounds faster than you can say, “Pass the ranch nachos.”
Smarter Snacks: Better Choices
A lot of the time, it’s the little indulgences that really add up, says Emily Banes, RD, clinical dietitian at the Houston Northwest Medical Center. Here are some healthy suggestions from Banes to satisfy your urge for snacks and keep that weight from coming back.
- Find healthy snacks with the taste sensation you crave. If your craving is sweet or creamy, try light or frozen yogurt, fruit, or sugar-free pudding. If your craving is crunchy or salty, try pretzels, popcorn, a couple of graham crackers, or apple slices with a bit of peanut butter.
- Opt for protein. “When snacking, it’s helpful to include a little bit of protein, like the peanut butter with the apple, or cheese and crackers, or string cheese,” says Banes. “The protein will take some of the edge off the hunger pang. I’ve had patients who really like baked pita triangles with hummus. Sometimes you have to think a bit outside the box.”
- Don’t forget the dairy. Banes’ suggestion of dairy products such as yogurt and string cheese for weight maintenance is supported by a study of 338 men and women who were trying to maintain their body weight. Those who ate three or more servings of dairy a day held steady during the nine-month study, while those who ate very little dairy were more likely to gain
A little bit of snack planning and self-knowledge can go a long way toward helping you maintain or lose weight, says Banes, whose personal credo is “All things in moderation.” But, she cautions, moderation does not mean a daily chocolate bar!
- Know your temptation threshold. It’s important to know how much self-control you have when you are near the snacks you really love. Some people may be able to keep chocolate in the house and only eat it every now and again, but others will find themselves gobbling up handfuls every day. It’s wise not to keep the snacks that tempt you to excess at home or in the office, says Banes.
- Keep healthy options readily available. Banes advocates filling up with vegetables and fruits. Research supports this theory. A study of 1,713 adults who have been successful with weight lossshowed that those who ate five or more servings of fruits and veggies a day were most successful at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. So stock your snack supply with baby carrots, grapes, celery sticks, apples, berries, fresh salad fixings, and other vegetable treats. Broths or other soups without a cream base can also be good snacks.
- Have a vending machine game plan. The best-laid diet plans can go awry and you may find yourself staring down the office vending machine despite your best intentions. It is still possible to make good choices, says Banes. Remember to choose items that have that bit of protein in them. “Pretzels or peanut butter crackers would be a better option than, say, the M&Ms or the KitKat bar,” she advises.
With advanced planning and some willpower you, you’ll be prepared to make healthy food choices that will satisfy any snack attack.