6 Ways to Snack Smarter
More Smart StrategiesThey Give In to Cravings
Sometimes a cookie is the only thing that will truly satisfy, and that's okay. "Cravings are nothing to be ashamed of," says Keri Glassman, RD, the author of The New You (and Improved!) Diet. "We all have them, and trying to eat around them only causes more damage. Say you're jonesing for chips. Instead of eating one serving and moving on, you have celery, then an apple, then a handful of pretzels, then -- because you're still not satisfied -- the whole bag of chips." While it might be hard to fathom stopping at just one cookie when you've got a whole box in the pantry, keep this in mind: In a recent Cornell University study, eating less than a half ounce of chocolate or potato chips quelled snackers' cravings just as effectively as eating a portion five or 10 times larger.
So give in to your sweet -- or salty -- tooth, but eat only half of what you normally would. Savor your snack, then check in with yourself. Still want more? Consider that second helping in terms of exercise. "Estimate how long it would take you to burn off the food. For every 100 calories, a 150-pound woman would have to jog for almost 10 minutes," Glassman says. Or try this tip from Carolina Caro, a 39-year-old life coach in Los Angeles: "When I get a chocolate craving, I melt a tablespoon of chocolate chips in the microwave and dip some fruit into it. Instant portion control!"They Don't Sweat on an Empty Stomach
Ever tried hitting the gym when you're hungry? Ten minutes into your workout, you're weak, cranky, and totally phoning it in. It's smart to snack before you sweat if it's been more than two hours since your last meal. Don't go crazy, though; a 200-calorie nosh is enough to pick you up without undermining all the calorie burning you're about to do. To get the most energy bang for your buck, opt for something that's about 60 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 10 percent fat, Upton says. (More fat than that can be hard to digest by the time you exercise.) Two good choices: Stir a chopped medium banana into a half cup of low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat plain Greek yogurt, or fill a small whole wheat pita with two ounces of sliced turkey and lettuce, tomato, and mustard.They Choose the Real Deal
The more processed a food is, the more likely it is to contain a lot of sugar and salt, which won't give you lasting energy. "Munch on whole foods like fruits, veggies, and nuts. They've got more protein, fiber, and healthy fats and keep you full longer," Glassman says. Research backs this up: When snackers in a Cornell University study ate a combo of vegetables and cheese, they needed fewer calories to feel full than when they ate potato chips.
To fortify yourself against the call of the office vending machine, avoid having one-dollar bills in your wallet while you're at work, suggests Shelby Issersohn, 21, a FITNESS reader in Voorhees, New Jersey. Keep a stash of good-for-you snacks made from whole foods, like all-natural trail mix or shelf-stable single-serving pouches of tuna with whole-grain crackers, in your desk or bag. If you're starving and packaged fare is the only option, go for the peanuts; they're high in filling protein.They Know Where to Snack
That means yes to eating in the kitchen or the break room at work -- and heck, no to snacking in the car, in front of the TV, or at your desk. "If you get into the habit of eating somewhere other than the table, you'll start to associate food with that place and always want to eat there," says Lisa Young, RD, a FITNESS advisory board member and the author of The Portion Teller Plan. Although inhaling lunch while you work might score points with your boss, it won't help you in the diet department. People who ate while on their computers not only reported feeling less full than those who focused on their food but also ended up consuming almost twice as many cookies later, a recent study from the University of Bristol in England found.
Eating while watching TV could also make you more likely to pick junky foods rather than healthy ones, according to research from the University of Waterloo in Canada. "Have a bowl of high-fiber cereal as dessert right after dinner. It makes you full, so you can resist the desire to snack in front of the tube later," Roberts says. Still have the urge to munch? Chew gum at night. "After about 14 days, the urge to snack while watching TV will fade," she says.
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