Christian Living


Beating the Snack Attack

Snack time. It was one of the highlights of my day as a child. After spending all day at school, I would jump off the school bus eager to race home and eat my afternoon snack.

Little did I know at the time that it was a habit that would stick with me throughout my life. I no longer get to go home at 3 p.m., but it is around that time each day that I hear the vending machine down the hall calling my name. Chips, cookies, candy bars…what will I choose today?

Unfortunately, those salty, sugary treats can add up to lot of calories and unnecessary fat pretty quickly. So what is one to do when the “snack attack” hits mid-afternoon?

Fortunately, nutritionists say that snacks are actually a good thing. If you get hungry between meals, it is a good idea to eat a small snack. This can keep you from overeating at meal time.

The key is choosing snacks that are healthy.

As part of my new healthy eating plan (see parts one and two of this article for more about why I changed my diet) I’ve been working hard to make better snack choices. Here is my battle plan for beating the afternoon snack attack.

Prepare for the Battle
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to make sure you choose a healthy snack over an unhealthy one is to keep good snack choices available. Clean out your fridge and pantry and fill them with healthier foods. Package your healthy snacks (fruits and veggies, for example) in small plastic containers or sandwich bags when you bring them home from the store. Then they are ready to grab when you want a snack.

Stay Armed
Also, keeping healthy snacks accessible is a good idea for when the “snack attack” hits. Keep pretzels, nuts, or fruit with you in your car, in your office, or in your purse or briefcase. They are always ready for you when you are hungry, and if you package them in small portions, you will never eat more than you should.

Choose Your Weapons
Here are my top ten healthy snacks to eat in place of the high-fat, high-sugar ones. I’ve even included a few for those battling a sweet tooth.

Pita chips and hummus – This is my new chips and dip. (My old standby of potato chips and French onion dip was full of saturated fat.) Pita chips are available in stores, but I make my own by slicing and baking a whole-wheat pita. There are many good recipes for hummus online, but I take the easy way out and buy mine at the deli.

If you must have a more traditional chip, opt for the baked varieties and dip them in salsa, or choose pretzels instead.

Popcorn – Without all of the salt and butter that most people use on their popcorn, this is a healthy snack. Unfortunately, I’ve always found plain popcorn to be quite bland. But I’ve discovered some interesting ways to season it up. Rather than using salt and butter, try the seasonings you have on hand in your pantry.

Pull out the old-fashioned air-popper and pop your own kernels. Then sprinkle lightly with either extra virgin olive oil, or a butter-flavored cooking spray (to help the seasonings stick). Experiment with seasonings to see what you like. A few suggestions are garlic, onion salt, cayenne pepper, five-spice, all-spice, cumin, Italian, curry, or a small amount of parmesan cheese. I’ve also heard that lemon pepper is good on popcorn, though I’ve never tried that one. Be sure to use low-salt or low-sodium seasonings when you can.

Veggies – Use snack times to reach your suggested amount of daily veggies. Many vegetables make quick and easy snacks that are portable for an on-the-go lifestyle. Some of my favorites are baby carrots, celery, cauliflower, cucumber slices, and grape tomatoes. For an extra splurge, dip them in fat-free dip or salad dressing.

Fruit – Snacks can also help you add more fruits to your diet. My favorites are grapes, blueberries, cantaloupes, apples, pears, and honeydew. Canned fruit can also be a good choice, if they are packed in their own juices or light syrup.

Cheese – Low fat string cheese is a healthy option for cheese lovers. Low-fat cottage cheese also goes great with fruits or veggies.

Yogurt – Low-fat yogurt by itself or paired with fruit is a tasty treat. Just be sure to watch out for the sugar content. Choose the “light” brands when you can.

Nuts – Eaten in small quantities, some nuts are good for you. Nuts can be relatively high in fat, but they are made up mostly of the good kind of fat that lowers bad cholesterol. The best varieties for good health are almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Nutritionists suggest the serving size for nuts is about a handful.

Conquer Your Sweet Tooth
Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers don’t have to totally eliminate chocolate from their diet. One of the best ways to satisfy those chocolate cravings is to keep a bag of dark-chocolate chips on hand. When you want chocolate, reach for a few of these sweet treats or add them to yogurt. Eaten in small quantities, dark chocolate has been shown to have a few health benefits including lowering blood pressure. Eating a few dark chocolate morsels will satisfy the craving without all the calories of a candy bar.

Sugar-free Pudding or JelloI have never liked Jello, but for those who enjoy it, it can be a low-calorie treat. A slightly less healthy choice is the sugar-free pudding, but if eaten in moderation, it can be a good choice as well.

Fruit SmoothiesIf ice cream and milkshakes are your favorite snack choice, try making your own smoothies. You can find many great recipes online that use fresh or frozen fruit usually mixed with low-fat milk, ice, and a small amount of vanilla or honey.

Declare Victory (even on days when you don’t win)
Try as I may, there will always be days when a handful of baby carrots just won’t take the place of a small bag of Doritos from the vending machine.

As you plan your healthy snacks, realize that sometimes you may falter. When your co-worker brings in her homemade baked goods, when your department decides a fund-raiser using Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is a good idea, or when that adorable little girl comes to your door sporting those addictive Girl Scout Cookies – these are all times that tempt even the healthiest eaters among us.

Don’t worry about a few mess-ups along the way. The key to eating healthier is incorporating healthier choices into your life one day at a time, and realizing that tomorrow always provides a new chance to eat better.

Count your successes one small healthy step at a time, and declare victory over your diet!

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