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Get your snack attack on track

Some deli turkey in the afternoon isn't going cold-turkey off the snacks, but a much better option than salty, crunchy, irresistible chips. © Dietrich Some deli turkey in the afternoon isn't going cold-turkey off the snacks, but a much better option than salty, crunchy, irresistible chips. © Dietrich

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I'm not sure why snacks have become this daily staple for so many folks. Maybe it's a growing appetite, or maybe a lingering remnant from childhood serving as an afternoon comfort food. No matter how or why they're here, snack attacks have more of a potential to be all filler and not really hunger killers.

"Snack"- it sounds like just a little harmless treat! But there can be some serious trouble lurking behind that cute little word. If you're just popping, non-stopping for the sake of it – it's time to nip your nibbles in the bud.

To start re-evaluating snack-time, ask yourself these questions:

Does eating a snack make you eat less?

A snack is actually worthwhile if grabbing something mid-afternoon really and truly does help you moderate at night. If an apple is all you need to stop you from a "nosh and cook" scenario, or will stop you from feeling ravenous and making not such a great dinner decision, then by all means – snack away! But for many, dinner-time is a real time to sit back and think about what they're chomping on. If you'd rather have a fuller plate when you can actually enjoy your food, the snack is just needless calories.

Do you find you actually drop weight while on vacation?

Okay, this might sound a little crazy but seriously, think about it! How often do you need a snack on vacation? And not even on vacation, how often do you stop yourself at 3 pm on a Saturday because you need a nibble? If the answer is never, then you probably don't need a snack to get through your day, hunger-wise, but more boredom-wise. Try replacing your routine snack with another sort of break – take a walk (even if it's just to chat with a co-worker) or make yourself a cup of green tea. If you can do that and not get ravenous for dinner, you probably don't need a daily snack.

Are you mindlessly munching on "air foods"? 

"Air foods" are simply foods that you shove down but really don't do anything for you. Sure, something might be just 100 calories, but if it leaves you hungry, unsatisfied and still filling up your dinner plate – it's a waste of 100 calories. Try having your snack at whatever time is the least busy for you, a time when you can sit back and process what you're eating so you get the satisfaction that will lead to the snack serving its purpose – helping you eat less at dinner. If you wind down your day with a half an hour answering e-mails or enjoy your commute home, those are the ideal times to get in a few bites of something satisfying.

Is your sweet tooth souring your whole day?

If your afternoon or mid-morning is never complete without something sweet (or something savory but sinful,) then ditching the snack altogether right off the bat probably isn't possible. A mid-morning snack should be no more than 180 calories, while an afternoon/evening snack should be no more than 80 calories. If it's cookies in the morning, potato chips in the evening, pizza at supper-time -- you are definitely in need of a snack makeover. For someone who's crunching on cookies, try a sweet Luna bar, like "Nutz Over Chocolate". Some deli turkey in the afternoon isn't going cold-turkey off the snacks, but a much better option than salty, crunchy, irresistible chips.

If you're snacks are here to stay, that's totally okay!

If your snacks only enhance your daily eating, keep them as part of your routine. My final secret is to keep them interesting and fun. This way, it doesn't ever become the same, boring bar day in and day out and will continue to be a treat and not a chore. Here's a few new ideas for mid-day munchies to keep things spicy and snacking smart!

  • Larabar Mini 100 calorie bar or Luna Bar Mini (Whole Foods or health food store)
  • Matt's Munchies all natural fruit strip  (LOVE island mango flavor but all are great! Order online or health food stores)
  • Sabra or Tribe 100 calorie hummus with 1-2 fiber rich crackers (average supermarket)
  • 2 Laughing Cow light cheese with 1-2 fiber rich crackers (average supermarket)
  • Desert Pepper Company black or 5 white bean dip (only 1-2 Tablespoons) spread on 1-2 fiber rich crackers (whole foods/health food store)
  • Blue Diamond or Emerald raw almond or coco almond 100 cal packs (Walgreens, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond--random!)
  • Wholly Guacamole 100 calorie pack natural guacamole with 1-2 fiber rich crackers (Whole Foods, Costco or online)
  • 2% Fage Greek yogurt with the strawberry or cherry jam on the side (average supermarket)
  • Breakstones 2% individual cottage cheese with 2 fiber rich crackers (average supermarket)
  • Organic valley string cheese, plus an apple
  • Justins 100 calorie individual pack almond butter plus 1-2 crackers
  • Kozy Shack rice pudding, no sugar added (Food Emporium, regular food store)
  • Good Health Organic Popcorn with a Hint of Sea Salt, 3.5 cups (140 calories) with 1 Baby Bell light cheese mixed in or Tabasco)
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