How to Turn Snacks Into Your Secret Diet Weapon

applesLet's face it: the pothole in every dieter's road to success is hunger. We don't eat just because something tastes good: we eat because we're totally starving! Strategic snacking is one of the most effective weapons you have against a poor food choice or (shudder!) a binge. When you keep your hunger in check with an appropriate snack, you're making it much easier to stick to your healthy food choices. But there's a key word here - strategic. If you snack mindlessly (and sometimes stress or fatigue can promote mindless snacking) you'll be adding extra calories to your daily intake without accomplishing your goal of minimizing hunger.

Here are my top Strategic Snacking Tips

Know Yourself. Some of my clients have told me that strategic snacking has enabled them to lose weight that they've never been able to lose before. But other clients learn that they don't need snacks at all. How do you tell? It's simple: try going from lunch to dinner without a snack. If you find that you are able to make good choices at dinner and that you're not utterly starving, you probably don't need a snack. If, on the other hand, you're desperate to eat just about anything by the time 5pm rolls around, you are a good candidate for a mid-afternoon snack. In general, most people who feel they need a snack do well to have a single mid-afternoon snack. People who require more calories because of size or activity level might also choose a mid-morning snack and/or an evening snack. Again, the key is to know yourself and limit your snacking to what's useful and strategic in helping you reach your goals.

Meet the Snacks. OK, so you know you really need a snack to help keep you on track. What do you choose? Here are some of my top picks:

  • If you need a mid-morning snack: Choose a light snack of no more than 80 calories. This might be an apple. 6 ounces of light yogurt, one Laughing Cow Light cheese and a Fiber Rich cracker.
  • If you need an afternoon snack: Stick to around 200 calories. A few good choices include: a Larabar, a Luna bar, a Nature Valley Granola bar, a 1.3 oz bag of Glenny's Soy Crisps.
  • If you need an evening snack: An evening snack should be less than 80 calories and it should be eaten right after dinner. A few good choices include Tofutti pops, Edy's Fruit Bars, a frozen Greek yogurt.

Watch your Weekends. Weekends can be a tough time to diet. You're off schedule. You're socializing and spending time with friends and family. Snacks can play a big role in helping your stick to your eating goals. I suggest you keep lots of healthy snacks on hand for weekends. It's better to over-indulge in a healthy snack than to lose control at a brunch buffet! Some good choices include all the snacks mentioned above a well as low-sodium V-8 juice with lemon over ice, sugar free hot chocolate, cut up cucumber or peppers, soy crisps and herbal teas.

Don't be a health-snack-nut. Have you noticed all those portion-controlled healthy snacks that fill the supermarket aisles these days? What could be wrong with a whole-grain, organic snack? Well, first there are the calories...even portion controlled snacks can pile on calories. Many of my clients tell me that they find it impossible to stop at one little snack! Moreover, for many dieters, the practice is worse than the calories. Once you get accustomed to downing a nibble here and a bite there it can be a hard habit to break.

So limit your snacks to my recommended choices and enjoy them strategically, not mindlessly!

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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