Maybe you're a pro at planning balanced meals, but things go awry during the hours in between. Excess snacking can put you over your daily calorie requirements and fill you up with sugar and other ingredients you're trying to avoid.
Lose weight and protect your health by changing the way you snack. Check out this list for ideas about how to snack less and make smarter choices.
How to Snack Less
1. Be mindful. Are you surprised to find you've eaten half a cake when you really meant to have one slice? You'll probably be satisfied with less food if you pay attention to each bite. Turn off the TV and chew slowly.
2. Leave the table. It's difficult to tell when dinner ends and snacking starts if you sit around nibbling leftovers on the serving platters. Clear the table and go for a walk.
3. Have a hearty breakfast. Late night snacking could be a sign that you didn't take in enough calories earlier in the day. Start with a nutritious breakfast like yogurt and cereal or an omelet stuffed with mushrooms and spinach.
4. Drink up. Thirst and hunger are often confused. The next time you want a cookie, drink a glass of water to see if the craving goes away.
5. Sleep well. Chronic fatigue can also make you want to eat. Go to bed on time and take a nap if you need to catch up on your sleep.
6. Chew gum. Sugar-free gum is an ideal snack. Satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy chewing without consuming any calories. Gum even helps to clean up bacteria in your mouth in between brushing and flossing.
7. Keep a log. You may be snacking more than you think. Use your phone or a notebook to track what's really going on.
8. Identify trigger foods. Many of us have certain foods that lower our inhibitions. Save French fries or donuts for special occasions if you tend to go overboard.
9. Manage stress. Are you eating to cover up difficult emotions? Call a friend or listen to soothing music instead. Run in the morning or go to the gym after work.
How to Snack Healthier
1. Reach for vegetables and fruits. A recent study suggests that eating 8 servings of produce a day dramatically increases happiness. Use snacks to help you reach your target.
2. Control portions. Most adults can indulge in any favorite treat as long as they keep the serving size reasonable. Learn to eyeball what an ounce of almonds or a cup of ice cream looks like.
3. Create substitutes. Do you long for something salty or sweet? Bake your own pita chips with garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle toasted oats with cinnamon and dark chocolate cocoa.
4. Stock up. Fill your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets with nutrient-dense foods you love. You can make healthy treats in minutes with baby carrots, celery sticks, low fat yogurt, natural peanut butter, and hummus.
5. Avoid commercials. Advertising tends to promote ultra-processed foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. Hit the mute button when you see TV commercials for candy bars and soda.
6. Plan ahead. Vending machines and gas stations are also full of foods that can derail your diet. Carry your own snacks in a cooler or plastic bags. Schedule a break for tea and half a sandwich when you're out shopping or running errands.
Make your snacks work for you, keeping you full between meals and fueling up your body. Watch your calories and eat nutrient-dense foods that help you stay slim and strong.