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!)