How to Master the Snack Attack

Everyone has experienced cravings, hunger pains or the mid-afternoon munchies.  Maybe snacking is a late night habit or a stress relief for you.  Whatever the cause, snacking can be a big BUST to a healthy diet.

I have found when many people change their lifestyle habits they have a hard time giving up snacks.  Snacking is often the roadblock to many people's success.  I'm going to say something controversial -- stop snacking today!  I often see people take snacks to the pool, to the playground, or to the beach.  I always tell my kids, "we are not here to eat, we are here to play."   To be more specific, I'm not talking about eating a handful of almonds while running errands.  I'm talking about eating potato chips straight from the bag in from of the TV.  I'm talking about eating your kid's gummy snack at the playground just because it's available.  I'm talking about the habit of snacking

When you snack you should take a moment to reflect on what you are doing.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I hungry or is this a craving?

  • If it is a craving, do I want a specific food or do I just want the "motion/feeling" of eating?

Also, think about how you are feeling and why you picked your snack of choice:

  • Am I stress eating

  • Am I eating out of habit

  • Does this snack make me feel good? guilty? healthy? satisfied?

Once you have answered some basic questions you can then figure out your next step.

HUNGARY VS. CRAVING

It's 11:00 am... almost lunch time, but not yet.  You are dying for a treat at work so you head over to the receptionists desk for a piece of candy.  We've all been there.  But are you eating because you are legitamately hungry or because you are stressed?

If you are hungry that means you need to either drink water or amp up breakfast!  Dehydration can make you feel hungry.  First drink a few cups of water and then see how you feel.  If your still hungry then your cup of coffee and bagel and cream cheese just isn't cutting it.  You need FIBER!  I'm convinced fiber is the superhero of the nutrition world. Fiber is going to keep you fuller longer.  That way you won't even be thinking of candy around 11 because you'll still be full from breakfast.  If you are hungry before your next meal here are some suggestions to pump up your breakfast.

  • Oatmeal with berries and almonds. Just forgo the brown sugar (simple carbs are going to make you hungry!!!), the berries are all the sugar you need and they give you FIBER! Yay!

  • Smoothie for breakfast with tons of fruit and protein, ex. almond milk, protein powerder, yogurt, and loads of frozen berries -- is peach mango your smoothie of choice? Mixed berry? Bananas and peanut butter? I love smoothies because the possibilities are endless and there isn't a lot of cleanup. Pair your smoothie with an apple for an extra fiber boost.

  • Quinoa and apple -- switch out the oats for Quinoa (which looks like a grain but is actually a veggie!) I love mixing in a bit of peanut butter with the apple

  • 1 cup of cottage cheese, salad, and broiled grapefruit (top grapefruit with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla extract and then broil for 3 min.) Salads aren't only for lunch. Top a bed of greens with apples, strawberries, walnuts or hard boiled egg whites for a beautiful meal.

  • Whole wheat frozen waffle topped with peanut butter and banana -- this is also one of my favorite snacks!!!! I love peanut butter and banana on rice cake.

  • Mini-quiches with veggies -- you can cook scrambled eggs (eggs and egg whites, cottage cheese and veggies (I love sauteed spinach)) in muffin tins for mini quiches. Then pop in the fridge and quickly microwave them in the morning.

  • Hard boiled egg whites are a great on-the-go breakfast when you are rushing to work.

*** you can also sprinkle ground flax meal on any of these dishes for a nutty flavor and a kick of FIBER!  

CRAVING MOVEMENT OR A SPECIFIC FOOD?

Now do you want something specific or are you just wanting to eat?  I am a stress eater.  And the simple repetitive motion of eating is so relaxing -- a way to get all my nervous energy out and distract my mind, even for just a few minutes.  If you just want the feeling of eating it's ok. It's a very human emotion.  Or do you just need Chocolate? -- that's me, too.  Once you identify why you are snacking you can come up with an action plan.  

If you have a specific craving go for it... But only in moderation!  And not every day.  If moderation is tough for you you may need to just stop eating (chocolate/Oreos/ranch dip...) completely.  For example, my Mother-in-law served tiramisu for my 32nd birthday.  Tiramisu is my favorite dessert and what started as a conservative, healthy portion soon spiraled into me eating the entire cake over a span of three days.  That's why I don't eat sugar on a regular basis.  I just can't handle it.  And you need to be honest with yourself.  If you have no will power, be honest with yourself, and just say no.  Stay on the wagon and try not to fall off.  

If you just want the repetitive feeling or motion of eating, like eating a bowl of potato chips, that's cool, too.   But change chips to popcorn or rice cakes.  Then break the rice cakes into smaller pieces so you are still eating a correct portion but you get the feeling (motion) of eating more. For example, if you crave chocolate, then eat a measured portion of chocolate chips.  Take that one step further by mixing a measured portion of chocolate chips with dried fruit or almonds to boost fiber and nutrients.

Some great repetative motion foods are:

  • Grapes

  • Grape tomatoes

  • Carrots

  • Broccoli

  • Frozen grapes

  • Chocolate chips, measured!

  • Baked chick peas (mix canned chick peas with chili power, garlic, and touch of salt then bake on baking sheet at 350 for 20-30 minutes)

  • Almonds, measured!

  • Edamame

  • Raspberries

  • Sugar snap peas

BEFORE DINNER CRAVINGS

If you are simply starving after work then you need to adjust your meals, like I suggested with breakfast. Eat more fiber for lunch (fruits and veggies) to help you stay full.  Eat an apple before you leave work, drink water all the way home and then set out a bowl of carrots/broccoli/grapes (things that are repetitive motion foods for the "feeling" of eating) while you cook dinner.   Also, you'll be more likely to reach for a healthy snack by simply placing healthy food out in the open where you can see it.  

THE HABIT OF SNACKING

Do you always eat veggies with ranch?  Eat a doughnut with your morning coffee?  Do you always buy the same frappachino and scone at Starbucks?   Identify those habits that add fat and sugar to your diet and start substituting.  Change your pairing--- make veggies and hummus your new habit.  Change doughnut and coffee to coffee and oatmeal.  Sometimes we eat things based on our associations we've built over time.  I used to eat Oreos every day at 3 pm.  After a while I asked myself if I was even hungry.  Not always.  I simply liked having a relaxing snack at that time.... reading the news on my ipad, getting a cup of tea and eating my Oreos. Well, once I decided to kick the sugar habit I needed a new habit.  So I started eating almonds.  It was still a repetitive and tasty treat, but now my snack was more nutritious and gave me more FIBER.  Eventually eating a healthy snack set me up for WANTING a healthy dinner, too.  Currently, I just enjoy a green tea for my afternoon break.  I've evolved overtime to phase out snacking completely.  But the first step was to identify my habits and change them.    

On a final note, if you are binge snacking due to stress make sure you find a way to manage your stress in a healthy way.  Start exercising, walking, meditating, going to a therapist, make an effort to talk to a best friend more, talk to your boss...  Unmanaged stress isn't only bad for the diet, it's also bad for your soul and your health.

So start asking yourself some basic questions before you reach for the bag of chips and dip.  Spring Teller Fitness can design a meal plan that is right for you and help you break those bad habits today!