Here are simple solutions to common snacking mistakes.
Are you a bona fide snack lover? Someone with a desk drawer of snacks at work, a piece of fruit in your bag and a bag of almonds in your car? Smart snacking—choosing healthy foods in portions of 200 calories or less if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight—can keep hunger at bay and add important nutrients to your diet.
But poor snacking habits may result in overeating and weight gain. Americans now consume on average more than two snacks a day, and a recent study found that snacking may make up one-fourth of our daily calories. Here are four easy solutions to common snacking mistakes:
Snack Mistake: You nosh on empty calories.
Chips, candies and cookies are devoid of nutrients, don’t fill you up and may have you reaching for more food sooner than you’d hoped.
Healthy Snack Solution: Choose snacks that pair protein with carbohydrates, such as almonds with an orange, or roasted chickpeas, which are a good natural mix of carbs and protein. Chickpeas are also high in fiber, which research suggests may help prevent weight gain and even may help you lose weight. Carbs and protein are a good pairing because carbohydrates provide your body and brain with energy, and protein-rich foods keep you feeling full longer because they break down more slowly in the body.
Snack Mistake: You eat a morning snack.
A 2011 Journal of the American Dietetic Association study found that dieters who didn’t snack between breakfast and lunch lost nearly 5 percent more weight (an average of 7.5 more pounds) over a year than morning snackers did. Since breakfast and lunch can be only a few hours apart, researchers suspect that most a.m. snacks are fueled out of habit rather than hunger—and generally amount to mindless eating.
Healthy Snack Solution: Forgo the morning snack, unless you have to go more than four hours until lunch.
Snack Mistake: You skip snacks altogether.
If you go too long between meals, you might be more prone to feast on high-calorie foods when you do eat, says a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Participants looked at pictures of low-cal and high-cal foods two to four hours after eating lunch and had their brains scanned. Researchers found that participants were much more interested in the high-cal foods when their blood sugar levels were low (in other words, when participants were hungry) versus when levels were normal.
Healthy Snack Solution: Satisfy afternoon hunger—and avoid tempting-but-less-healthy options—by planning ahead.
Snack Mistake: You deprive yourself of treats.
A small indulgence may be the secret to losing weight—and keeping it off for good. Savoring a tiny treat each day won’t sabotage your weight-loss efforts, says research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Healthy Snack Solution: Make room for a daily treat in your diet. If you crave salty snacks, like pita chips, popcorn or cheese and crackers, it’s OK to indulge in the occasional small portion. Got a sweet tooth? Go for a delicious low-calorie chocolate treat after dinner.
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