Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Importance of Snacking

Snacking is really important. It's how we know we're not depriving ourselves, restricting ourselves. If you 'ban' certain foods like sweets or breads, for example, one day you'll find yourself sitting on the kitchen floor with a package of Oreos or a loaf of Mrs. Baird's eating the whole package! Deprivation diets only work for the few weeks you force yourself to be on them. They're not the kind of permanent lifestyle change you want to make. At least they never worked for me or anyone I know. That's why snacking is important. I try to have a mid-afternoon snack every day.

But I've found there are a couple of keys to snacking. One is to pick something that will really satisfy you. If you're looking for a mouth-satisfying salty crunch, then having a banana isn't going to cut it. Think before you dive in. Really consider what you want at that moment and have it. Don't substitute. Healthy snacking is the wisest, but if you have something because you think it's healthy when you really want something else like a handful of cheese puffs, you'll end up eating both and then you'll go through all that kicking yourself because of no discipline, etc., etc.

The second key, of course, is keeping your snack portions under control. Look at the amount of calories you have decided to allow yourself for snacks. Whether it's a healthy handful of nuts or a bunch of M&M's, keeping it all under control is part of having your cake, as they say, and eating it, too. If it's a prepackaged food, look for the nutrition label and find where it gives the serving size. For most chips and crackers it's going to be about 1 ounce or 28 grams. Before you take that first bite, pour up the serving amount. And yes, crackers you eat before you fold the box shut, DO count. Close the box or package and put it away. Then and only then, should you start eating the snack. It's important to take your time and enjoy it. If you wolf it down, it won't feel like you've had anything and your brain will still be in search of... Remember, the battle you're waging here isn't so much with your stomach as it is with your mind. If the snack you've picked is say, an apple, take a quick glance at your calorie counting book for the size or weight of the fruit. If you've decided to allow yourself a maximum of 250 calories for a snack, and say the apple you've chosen is about 100 calories, have an ounce of cheese to balance it out. The snack will last longer that way and be more satisfying.

Above all, write down your snack on your daily food list and add it into your calorie count. As long as you respect your wants and needs, snacking can be an integral and successful part of your lifestyle change.

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