I love to snack. I love the satisfaction of crunching on something salty and following it up with something sweet. I am a self-proclaimed snackoholic. Most people when they think of weight loss, they immediately cut out snacking. What a shame! Without snacks, our lives would be dull with only three square meals each day. I will change your perception of snacking by showing you how choosing the right snacks will help you lose weight and feel better throughout the day.
Why we snack:
There are many reasons why we choose to snack. Sometimes it is because we are bored. Maybe it’s because we had a stressful day. Other times, it is because we are simply hungry. If you are truly hungry, even at night, you should have a snack. The key is to snack for the right reason with the right balance of foods. When our bodies are used to eating high sugar, high fat "junk" foods we begin to crave these types of foods. Let’s face it: fat, sugar and salt taste good. They may make us feel better temporarily, but after our bodies digest these types of foods, we usually feel worse than before. These sugary, high fat foods will raise our blood sugar levels very quickly giving us more energy, but they will also cause our blood sugar to come crashing down at a very fast rate. This can make us feel tired, sluggish and irritable.
It’s important to train your mind to think differently about snacks and your eating habits so you begin to crave the right types of foods. It is also important to keep in mind that a snack should be designed to keep you satisfied until your next meal; it shouldn’t fill you up completely.
Snacking can raise your metabolism:
When most of us think of dieting, we think of ways to cut out foods or meals. We automatically restrict and deny ourselves food in hopes that we will lose a lot of weight. Well, that usually works against us, especially when we stop dieting. The key is to eat every 4-5 hours. If you have breakfast at 6:30 am and lunch at noon, you need to eat a mid-morning snack. By restricting snacks, you are putting your body into starvation mode and actually slowing down your metabolism. If you frequently eat healthy foods, you will add "fuel to your fire" and contribute to burning more energy and increasing your metabolism. Always remember that you should be focusing on lifetime changes, not just short-term weight loss goals. Eliminating snacks forever is not realistic, but changing your snacking habits will provide you a lifetime of benefits.
The good, the bad and the ugly:
There are snacks that are really good for us, and those that are not so good for us. When planning your snacks, you want to consider a balance of lean proteins (like nuts, lean meats and low fat cheeses) with a whole grain or high fiber food (like fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads or crackers). Some examples of snacks for a mid-morning energy boost could be a low-fat yogurt, 1 ounce of nuts with a piece of fresh fruit, a high fiber/high protein granola bars, or 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter spread on some whole grain toast. Stay away from the high calorie, caffeine-coffee drinks and muffin from your favorite coffee shop. You could end up consuming around 800 calories and 30 grams of fat from one snack! Stick to snacks that are around 200 calories. If you are feeling sluggish mid-afternoon, try reaching for a whole grain pita and some hummus or make your own trail mix with dried fruits, granola, nuts and some small chocolate pieces. You will have a lot more energy from foods that fill you up, rather than a bunch of empty calories. Also, stay away from drinking soda pop. Try keeping water with you all day and sip on it. Water will give you the feeling of having more energy than a sugary soda. If you tend to snack at night in front of the television, try occupying your mind with a new task. Try crossword puzzles, knitting, or scrap booking. Place your snack food in a small bowl, instead of taking the whole bag with you. This will help you with portion control. And, when thinking of snacks, remember "out of sight, out of mind". If it’s not in the house (or at the office), you will be less tempted to eat it!
We all like to treat ourselves every once in awhile. The key is moderation. Try healthier options of your favorites and eat less of these high fat, high sugar foods. And, remember it is okay to have a treat. Don’t beat yourself up for eating a chocolate chip cookie or having a piece of cake at a birthday party. These special occasions are part of our lives and should be enjoyed. Just remember to balance these foods out with plenty of healthy foods and exercise and you will be on your way to your weight loss goals!