A few of you have written in with suggestions for a post on how to control your snacking. To be honest, I’ve avoided a post like this (until now) because it’s something I don’t think I’ve completely mastered – I still struggle with late-night snacking when I’m working into the late night/ early morning in my hotel room, and it’s something I’d like to improve (I should read Tip #1!). I’m reading a few books on the topic right now, so I’ll happily share any great tips I get afterwards. But for today, I want to share 7 basic tips that you can use to help you snack healthily, (only) when you’re hungry. Enjoy!
- Before you start snacking, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. There’s no good reason to deprive your body of food if you truly are hungry, but often times when we snack, we’re doing so because we’re bored, tired, upset, angry, or frustrated. Stopping to recognize how you’re actually feeling can help control the urge to keep your hand dipping into that bag of potato chips or candy more times than you even realize.
- If you are actually hungry, follow my 100-calorie Snacking Rule. I determine (about) how long it will be until my next meal, and multiply the number of hours by 100 to figure out the (approximate) calorie total for my next snack. So, if it’s 5pm, and I won’t be eating dinner until 7 or 7:30pm, I know that a 200-calorie snack will likely tide me over. This doesn’t mean that I feel the need to eat 100 calories every hour no matter what, but it helps me gauge the size of my snacks … If I am hungry several hours before my next meal, and I try to tide myself over with a small piece of fruit, I know I’ll be snacking again before long. Note that if you’re a (lucky!) male, are especially active, or are younger/ larger/ generally need more calories, the 100-calorie Snacking Rule might become the 150-calorie Snacking Rule for you. Experimentation is the best way to find out what works for YOUR body, and everyone is different!
- If you want to avoid mindless snacking, don’t skip breakfast. Several studies show the clear relationship between eating a healthy breakfast and snacking less throughout the day. This one showed that those who ate a high-protein breakfast ate 200 calories less in late-night snacks than those who skipped breakfast or ate a breakfast lower in protein. I talk more about the importance of eating breakfast in this post (remember that those who skip breakfast ate 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit over the course of the day?).
- Make sure you’re getting enough satiating fiber, protein, and healthy fat, which will help you stay away from mindless noshing. This holds true for your snacks, too – if they contain fiber, protein, or healthy fat (or all of the above!), they’re much more likely to keep you satisfied until your next meal.
- Drink some water. So many times, we mistakenly think we are hungry, when we are actually thirsty or dehydrated! So if you feel hungry but you’ve recently eaten a large meal or feel you “shouldn’t” be hungry based on what you’ve consumed that day, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 15-20 minutes. If you still feel hungry (and are not bored/ tired/ etc.), it might just be one of those “hungry” days, and you should honor that!
- Keep yourself occupied with hot tea or gum, or brush your teeth. If you are not hungry but are just feeling “snacky,” you could try drinking a cup of hot tea or chewing on sugar-free gum or mints. Often times, these will keep you occupied and give you a hint of flavor to take your mind off of snacking. If it’s late at night, and I’ve already had a few snacks and know I’m not really hungry, I’ll brush my teeth earlier than planned … the thought of my unhealthy snacks is somehow less tempting when my mouth feels all fresh and minty!
- Munch on a healthy snack. I talked about healthy travel snacks in this post, and shared some of my favorites there. If I have the urge to snack because I’m bored or tired (which is usually the case at night!), I’ll often go for something healthy with a satisfying crunch. Snap peas, celery, baby carrots, and grapes are all great choices, and there are a few more here. If the healthiest snacks just aren’t cutting it, I’ll go for a 100-calorie bag of popcorn, a bag of Popchips, or (of course!) some dark chocolate. The trick is to give yourself what you’re craving (sweet? salty? crunchy? munchy?), so that you feel satisfied after the snack and don’t have to go back for more, but also to make it as healthy as possible.
Before I let you go, I want to wish my older sister Katie a huge congratulations on graduating with her Master’s degree yesterday. I’m currently on a plane from Minneapolis, headed back to Dallas for a quick night, but I had a great weekend getting to see my family – including my nieces and nephew. And it was great to get to celebrate Katie’s huge accomplishment!
So tell me in the comments … Do you find yourself snacking when you’re not hungry? What are your favorite healthy snacks? What is hardest for you to avoid?