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Sane Snacking: 10 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain

Make it a New Habit: Drink an 8-12 oz glass of water right before you snack to reduce hunger.

Make it a New Habit: Drink an 8-12 oz glass of water right before you snack to reduce hunger.

What happens when you have a hankering for a snack? Do you sometimes need to have something sweet, salty, or greasy, right away? I know this happens to me, no matter how disciplined I might be at any given time.

Sometimes our energy is just zapped and often our body cries out for something to keep us going. The first instinct is to grab some soft, sweet sugar-filled goodness or something to “munch” on, usually of the crunchy carbohydrate variety.

We all know that snacking can be the downfall of a healthy lifestyle, but there are some things you can do if you must snack that will help you avoid  the extra pounds.

Most of the time I try not to snack at all by eating proper meals, but there are times I just can’t help myself. Sometimes, there are days in a row when I snack, as much as I tell myself I’m not going to. Usually the urge to snack means that I haven’t eaten enough at mealtime, that I haven’t eaten the proper food at meals, or that I’m waiting too long in between meals. When I do snack I follow the 2-3 Hour Window rule of thumb, no matter what I choose to snack on (below).

Obviously the best approach is to try to avoid the snack altogether, but when you need to snack to re-up on energy (or just to kill a craving) here are 10 tips to help keep off the extra pounds:

1. The 2-3 Hour Window
Whenever you snack, always make sure that your snack is at least 2-3 hours since your last meal and before your next meal. This should be followed no matter what the snack, and ensures proper digestion so that the snack won’t interfere with proper absorption of your meals. Obviously we can’t always meet this window, but definitely try holding off after a meal for at least 2 hours (three hours is much better). If a meal is approaching and you cannot wait, keep the snack very light so you don’t get full.

2. Be Prepared
Sometimes, whether you’re at the office or work in the home, you’re going to want or need to snack even if you have the best intentions. Eat right to avoid the urge, but be prepared, just in case. Have things on hand that you can indulge in when the need arises, things that take no more than 1 minute to prepare if you’re at home, and things can take to work if you’re at the office. If you don’t eat them, fine, but have them on hand anyway. Below are some ideas for healthy snacks to have on hand.

3. Drink 8-12 oz of Water First
Drinking 8 oz of water before your snack will help you feel more full and will reduce how much you need to eat. So when you’re hankering for the snack, try to grab the water bottle first, drink at least 8 ounces, then go ahead and snack.

4. Avoid the Simple Carbohydrates
Yes, I know, those are the very snacks we’ve become accustomed to (and thus part of why snacking becomes a problem). The simple carbohydrates are the worst thing to reach for as those do nothing for energy (except to give us a very short “high” followed by a definite crash) and translate directly into weight gain.

5. Have a Protein Snack
Not a protein bar, but a whole food that has protein in it, which gets burned right away. A lowfat cheese may suffice, or a whole organic yogurt, but even better are nuts and seeds, since they are both high in protein and can definitely kill the craving for the “munchie” variety of snacking. Try some pistachios or peanuts in the shells (that way it takes a little longer to eat each one). Or bring a little bag of sunflower seeds to work with you. Avoid the honey-roasted varieties and if you can, try some uncooked varieties at your local health food store.

6. Have a Fruit
Fruit will help you with low energy and give you vitamins and nutrients that you need. A fruit cup (no syrup or sugar) filled with just about any variety will do the trick. If you can’t manage to get your hands on one and are on the go, having a decent-sized apple handy will help. The trick is to have fruit that will take a while to eat. A banana is easy to grab, but the eating is over too fast. The apple, 2 small plums, a peach, or some other fruit that takes longer to eat is optimal.

7. Have Vegetables
Carrots that crunch, celery, grape tomatoes, raw broccoli, or a smorgasbord of veggies will help kill the cravings and keep you going. Try a variety if you can, or just have 8 or so carrot sticks. By the time you finish them you’ll feel better.

8. Combine 2: Veggies & Fruit, Protein & Fruit, Protein & Veggies
Any combination of the above will surely fill you up enough to get rid of the hunger and keep you going. Try some cheese with grapes, some carrots followed by an apple, some seeds or nuts with cucumbers or grape tomatoes. Really, anything you can thing of. If you do this, you should definitely make sure you are following the longer side of the 2-3 hour window.

9. Combine 3 and Make it a Mini Meal
So maybe you’re just famished. It’s been three hours since your last meal and you didn’t have enough and just can’t wait. Combine the three of the above and even add a healthy fat (an all natural, oil-based, low sugar salad dressing for dipping the fresh vegetables) and call it a mini-meal. Put the next meal off for another hour or two beyond the 2 to 3 hour window, and maybe have another mini-meal.

10. Must. Have. Real. Sweets.
Okay, so there are times you’re going to want the real sweets. If you’re eating your meals according to plan, and have avoided the simple carbohydrates for a while, then go ahead and do it. Follow the window, don’t over indulge, and forgive yourself immediately. There will always be exceptions, the point is not to make it a habit. If you’re eating right, the occasional indulgence is not going to hurt. Try to follow the 90%/10% rule (no more than 10% of what you eat in a day is the wrong kind of food).

(Editors’s Note: This was dug out of the archives and reposted for my friend Suzanne at tcoyou.com, who was so kind to feature SerenityHacker on her blog, and this was one of her favorite posts. Thanks Suzanne!)

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17 comments… add one

  • I see we are staying away from global tax policy :)…you can never go wrong with this approach. I’m the worst offender. The glass of water works…or a slice of pizza.

    • Hi Marc, yes, tax policy isn’t my thing, but I love the thought of “national happiness”!! And the slice of pizza used to be a big weakness of mine, for over 10 years, starting high school, pizza was my favorite food. Of course back then I could eat plenty of it without thinking twice… I honestly don’t know where it all went! Now, though, it’s a differently story… it doesn’t exactly disappear anymore! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Hey Miche,

    Not exactly my problem, I don’t think I could gain wight if my life de pended on it, but I get your point. I think the principle is pretty much the same if we’re talking about loosing weight keeping it of and so on: eat healthy, have a healthy lifestyle. This is what I focus on and my physical state is usually top notch.


    • Hi Eduard, you’re the person the rest of envy, blessed with a super metabolism! Ah, lucky you! I do think the principle is pretty much the same, though eating right, particularly if eating wrong causes one grief (in the form of clothes not fitting and not feeling well or energized) gets a little tricky at times, especially if you’re busy. That’s where planning comes in even more than discipline. That’s honestly my biggest issue… I get so busy I skip meals… which is not a good thing. I have to be mindful about eating the right things and eating meals when I’m supposed to (I can get so wrapped up in work or creative pursuits that I literally FORGET to eat… then later I’m famished!) And so it is with snacks, too, but if I remember to eat 3 times a day, and have healthy snacks on hand, then I’m usually fairing pretty well! ;) Miche

  • I am very touched that you republished that post for me. Thank you!

    You are top notch and have been since I first found you and your writing. Thank you for your thoughtful comments over on Taking Care Of You (tcoyou.com) and for continuing to inspire me with the amazing insight in your posts on Serenity Hacker.
    .-= Suzanne´s last blog ..TCOY Spotlight ~ Serenity Hacker =-.

    • Hi Suzanne, not a problem! I figured people might like it, and honestly, I had forgotten a couple of things in it that I was glad to rediscover! I couldn’t dig up the old comments, though, which is a shame. At any rate, I had initially deleted the posts because they appeared on another blog I had (no longer in existence), and I read it wasn’t good for google to have the same posts appear in two places, so I thought, well, maybe I should delete them… you know? Once I find the rest of the health ones I’ll put them back up again… And thanks so much for the wonderful feature! I received two emails today from http://www.tcoyou.com readers happy to have discovered Serenity Hacker, so thanks a bunch! :) Cheers to you! -Miche

  • Joy

    I understand all that you are sharing. My favorite snacks are also most healthy. However, there are times when you just need to go ahead and eat– and enjoy eating– a decadent snack. Just as your body needs rest and exercise, sometimes your body needs a treat:) Altough to me a bubble bath is much more luxurious than a candy bar:)
    .-= Joy´s last blog ..The Rose =-.

    • Hi Joy, great to see you! And ahhhhh, the bubble bath is one of my greatest pleasures in life, really! It’s an art, an oasis, an escape, a soothing undoing of everything a day can bring, and a quiet rejuvenation… definitely an experience like no other… I could write an entire post on it, and maybe some day I will! ;) Thanks so much! Cheers, Miche

  • That’s a very good advice on snacks and general health. I think that women are more prone to snacking often and thus gaining weight. Men are much luckier in this sense :-)
    My favorite snacks are also fruits and veggies. I always keep some dried fruit in my refrigerator (dates, figs, apricots, prunes) in case I have a craving for sweets. I know that they are packed with calories but they are also packed with vitamins and nutrients (somethings that sweets and other junk food definitely miss.) The most important rule is to have not more than 3 pieces.
    Another strategy that I use is buying really expensive and decadent treats. I know that I cannot eat a lot so when I have a craving I just have 1 piece of my favorite treat and it completely satisfies me.
    .-= Anastasiya´s last blog ..How to Make the Most out of Your Valentine’s Day Whether You Are Single or Not =-.

    • Hi Anastasiya, great to see you! I think you’re right… women seem more prone to snacking, or at least more prone to keeping on the weight that unhealthy snacking often brings with it. Great thought on the dried fruit… I wish I added them to the list! They definitely can kill that sometimes insatiable craving for something ultra-sweet. Great thought on the decadent treats, too. I have to have the real thing now and then, too… My favorite luxury snack? Just about anything with extra dark chocolate… yum!! Thanks for the great ideas! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Great tips! My worst slump-time is 3-5pm and that’s when I reach for the snacks. I found that tip #9 worked really well for me. If I could pack something like hummus, pita bread and vegies like alfalfa sprouts, cucumber or carrot sticks, that would be enough of a light meal that I often didn’t need to eat dinner later, or just a very small snack would suffice. I really think having a big meal at dinner, so late in the evening is a bad idea. My body certainly struggles with it.

    When I was working at my last job as a web developer in a cubicle farm I got into bad snacking habits big time. And I gained weight big time too (no surprise there)! I was so bored most of the time, there was no fresh air (don’t you just love those hermetically sealed buildings where you can’t open the windows?), and no natural sunlight reached my cubicle. I’d find myself literally falling asleep at my desk. So I’d grab another Coke or other caffeinated beverage from the fridge, more cookies if there were any left, or go out seeking sugar-foods if not. I was desperately trying to stay awake. We weren’t allowed to take a break and go for a walk to clear our head (even though no one even said anything to the few smokers who would be gone for 15 minutes every hour for their fix). It was such an awful feeling, because while consuming the snacks would wake me up a bit for a brief time, that crash afterwards was just awful. I would drink lots of water throughout the day at least, which had the added benefit of giving me a good excuse to get up and walk (to the toilet)… that walk wasn’t frowned upon so much by management ;-) I became more overweight than I have ever been. Fortunately the Universe took care of me… I had an injury, couldn’t work for some time and lost my job because of it. A blessing in so many ways. It was worth the intense pain I endured for nearly two years.

    Now I have fresh air, sunshine and healthy food. I have lost at least 15kg, and interesting cellulite disappeared in the process. I’m trying to eat a raw food diet as much as I can, without beating myself up and stressing out if I don’t. I’ve replaced the soda with home-brewed kombucha (healthy benefits and more energy than I ever got from those carbonated ‘smart’ drinks!) and one of my favorite snacks is kale chips. I don’t even eat potato chips any more. When I see a bag of potato chips in the store I crave kale chips! They are so healthy and nutrient dense, yet every bit as good as chips at satisfying that salty, oily, crunchy craving. I really didn’t do anything except replace unhealthy foods with healthy ones, and the weight just disappeared off me with no effort.
    .-= Donna´s last blog ..The Health Benefits of Goji Berries =-.

  • Hi Donna, thanks so much for stopping in and for the great comment! So true, cubicle lie and working in front of a computer all day definitely can serve to enable some rather unhealthy eating habits if we don’t take the time to plan accordingly. Kale chips? I’ll have to try those! At my job there’s no where really healthy to eat so I have really have to plan and bring the right food with me to work, or else I’m done for. My real downfall has always been working through meals and grabbing a cup of coffee instead of food… but if I bring the right snacks with me then I need less coffee, not only does it boost my energy but also my metabolism, which always helps keep the extra weight off, too. Cheers, Miche :)

    • Hi Miche, yeah I used to do the coffee instead of food thing too. At my former job it was particularly bad because there was a Starbuck’s half a block away and so I was drinking huge volumes of Caramel Machiato (I’m sure it didn’t contribute to my weight gain though ;-)). Sometimes I got it together and brought my own espresso and used their milk, but even then I was microwaving it – so that’s not good.

      Kale chips are divine! Do try them, you can easily play with the flavoring to make whatever suits your tastebuds. I’ve got a couple recipes on my website here: http://thehealthyeatingsite.com/?s=kale+chips . They are best made with a dehydrator because it preserves the enzymes and all the nutrients if you use a low temperature. But a lot of people use their oven on the lowest setting. I’m sure you have to keep a closer eye on them if you do that though. Dehydrators are great, like slow cookers, because they are more ‘set and forget’. I can’t wait until the kale starts growing in our garden – I’m going to try to make kale chips every other day!
      .-= Donna´s last blog ..The Health Benefits of Goji Berries =-.

  • Donna, thanks so much for the link! Dehydrator? Hmmm… I might have to pick one up? Tell me what else I can make in one! Thanks for the link for the kale chips, but now I need to know more about getting a dehydrator and what else I can do in it! I’m excited now! Thanks! :)

    • Ah well… that’s the topic for a whole post! You can do so many things, from drying herbs, vegies and fruit, including tomatoes (for sun-dried tomatoes – except not SUN dried) – great if you have a garden. I’ve also dried fresh coconut, much better than what you get in the store. I’ve made crackers, marinated mushrooms (delicious), cookies, granola, marinated vegies (think roast vegies but a bit crunchier). Snacks – I made these nice chewy, sweet and spicy things using thinly sliced apple and butternut squash. I soak my nuts and seeds (and sprout buckwheat), then use the dehydrator to dry them making them crunchy again. Nuts have enzyme inhibitors that can make them hard to digest, soaking gets rid of the enzyme inhibitors and makes them more nutritious. I’ve also put flavorings on the soaked nuts/seeds before putting them in the dehydrator.

      Raw foodies use them like ovens and make all kinds of great stuff, except it still has all the enzymes, vitamins and minerals intact – so higher nutritional content. You can make things like raw vegan pizza, patties, sausages, and energy bars. And some do all kinds of variations on kale chips but using different vegies and flavorings.
      .-= Donna´s last blog ..The Health Benefits of Goji Berries =-.

  • Regardless of what way you want to lose weight, make sure it incorporates things you like. So if you like to eat fast food or something similar to that, divide the food into 3 or 6 parts – don’t eat it all at once. Make exercise a priority while you’re at it, because it’s the most consistent way to lose weight. If you loathe running, try jump rope or air boxing, something to mold to your needs.
    .-= Caine (Easy Diets)´s last blog ..Easy to Follow Diet =-.

    • Just found your blog and I’m enjoying catching up on all the older post. This is great advice by Caine, you should always incorporate what makes you happy. I break my eating up into 2 hour windows. I limit sugar as much as possible and eat good quantity of quality protein like chicken breast and cottage cheese. I also exercises daily including resistance and cardio. This formula has worked well for me and I’m probably in the best shape of my life physically and mentally in my mid forties.
      .-= Rodney | home building guru´s last blog ..Getting Pricing and Builder Estimates for Your New Home =-.

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