How to Conquer Your Snack Attack

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I’ll admit it up front: I am a snacker. In fact, I have a snack twice a day. My body screams for food around three p.m. every day, even though I make a point to eat breakfast and lunch. If I ignore the hunger, I end up grabbing and devouring handfuls of chips or cookies as soon as I get home around five p.m.  Therefore, I plan ahead and have a non-perishable snack stashed in my desk drawer at all times, usually homemade trail mix.
My second snack attack hits in the evening, and is not related to true belly hunger at all.  In the evening, I want to eat food for comfort.  You know what I’m talking about. At the end of a long day, all I seem to want is chocolate ice cream along with my favorite TV show, book or magazine. 
There is nothing inherently wrong with snacking. In fact, snacking can help with weight loss by warding off afternoon and evening binge eating.  However, the snack should be factored into your total calorie intake for the day, and should contain about 150 calories. A balanced snack should have about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates and three to five grams of protein.

Unfortunately, this type of healthy snacking is NOT happening in America, for children or adults.  While I know you are probably not really surprised by this statement, you may be surprised at the numbers. 
  • In ''What We Eat in America,'' a survey by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, it was found that adults are consuming a lot of empty calories from snacks alone.  From the 5,000 adults surveyed, it was discovered that men are consuming 923 snack calories every day from nutrient-poor foods (candy, cookies, soda, chips, etc.), while women are consuming 625 snack calories.
  • The results for children are no better.  A recent survey of fourth and fifth grade students revealed that children are consuming 302 calories daily from nutrient-poor snacks, and only 45 calories from snacks that contain a fruit or vegetable.  I see this regularly from the children I work with who are trying to achieve a more healthy weight. High-calorie, nutrient-poor foods are easily making up 300-800 calories daily for these kids.  While their meals may be planned and structured, kids often decide what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat when it comes to snacks. 
The statistics may be discouraging, but there is hope!

Where to Begin?  If you, your child or another loved one is trying to get a handle on uncontrolled snacking, it all comes back to daily food tracking.  With this type of journaling, you can easily pinpoint where and when you're consuming nutrient-poor foods, as well as the factors surrounding the snack attack.  How often are you snacking?  How many calories are in your snack?  Are you meeting any nutritional needs from your snack?  Are you reaching for the snack because of true hunger or for emotional reasons?

The key is to find healthy, balanced snack options that have maximum nutrients for around 150 calories. As I mentioned earlier, I am truly hungry in the afternoons and have found a great solution to tide me over until dinner.  My secret trail mix snack-pack contains about 160 calories, 25 grams of carbs, and about four grams of protein. It's a perfect mix of a high fiber cereal, nuts, and dried fruit. Here is the recipe:
Becky’s Trail Mix
2 cups high-fiber cereal, such as Wheat Chex
2 cups mini-pretzels or whole grain Goldfish crackers
1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit
1/2 cup unsalted mixed nuts
1/4 cup of M&M candies
Blend all ingredients in a bowl and divide into 2/3-cup portions.  Place mix into zip-top plastic snack bags.  Makes eight servings.
My evening snack of chocolate ice cream (1/2 cup) contains 150 calories, 15 grams of carbs, two grams of protein, and lots of sugar and fat. This snack is definitely less than perfect!  However, it is still a far cry from the 624 nutrient-poor snack calories consumed by most adult women as listed in the report above.  As I always say, it is most important to look at the quality of your total diet, not just one food.  In the correct portion, a high-calorie, nutrient-lacking food can still fit into a healthy eating plan. However, adult men and women do not have room in their diet for 600-900 calories from junky snacks.
Is it time to evaluate your snacking habits? What about the habits of your children? Is a snacking intervention in order?

What are your favorite healthy snacks?

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SPINECCO 9/20/2020
Great information. Just what I needed. Thanks. Report
Great article. Report
EMGERBER 9/20/2020
I needed to read this article again to help me get my snacking back on track. Report
SUNSET09 7/30/2020
Good information, ,SparkFriends Report
:) Report
GEORGE815 6/1/2020
thanks Report
GMAM48 2/4/2020
Good article, but I think you could snack smarter and feel better.
RO2BENT 2/4/2020
If you’re hungry, drink water, wait, then try vegetables Report
Great tips. Report
KHALIA2 12/21/2019
Great Article! Thanks! Report
TERMITEMOM 12/18/2019
Good article. My go-to snack is air popped popcorn. Report
SHOAPIE 12/18/2019
Don’t focus on the recipe, read the whole article. It works for Becky, find what works for you. Report
LIDDY09 12/18/2019
Thanks Report
WILDKAT781 12/18/2019
still a good article! always helpful Report
PICKIE98 12/17/2019
unsalted almonds, mozz sticks, celery and water.. Report
PAMBROWN62 12/17/2019
I am most successful at snacking when I plan in advance. Report
Good ideas Report
Thanks again Report
Thanks for the recipe but I am going to leave out the M & M's. Report
I got the carrots out of the fridge for my snack! Report
Good need-to-know information, thanks. Report
I substitute dark chocolate chips for the m&ms Report
Excellent Report
Excellent Report
I like a small cup of cottage cheese in the afternoon with a "few" Ritz
crackers, although, have cut those down and go for celery too. Report
I so need this article becasue my snacking is for all the wrong reasons and getting a handle on it is a big challenge. Report
I usually mix peanut butter with sugar free chocolate chips. You can heat it up in the microwave a few seconds and it will melt together. Sometimes I will mix cream cheese peanut butter and sugar free chocolate chips and a little stevia. Report
When I get a crave, I reach for pecans and if I'm down for some chocolate, I'll dip them in Nutella. I try to combat my cravings with water and/or hot tea. So soothing. Report
Thanks for sharing! Report
Snacking is tough for me. Report
Great info! Thank you! Report
Thanks for the info. Report
This snack mix recipe sounds good. Yum! Report
thanks Report
Lots of good information to think about Report
Thanks for sharing Report
It is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.
- William Shakespeare Report
This is something that I will try very soon. Report
roast carrots, zucchini or potatoes (baby potatoes ) All sprayed with oil and roast 45 mins in a hot oven. Nice with salt
I know the m&ms are a popular part of a lot of many trail mixes. A lot of people get them just to pick out the candy. It doesn't really work for me, though. The only good part of this is trying to write it up as a recipe on nut tracker and at least holding myself accountable when I eat it. Report
Question all - "Wild Card Question" ??? What is a good snack that I can eat at night: that's around 20-30 Carbs, high in Potassium and low in sugar but high in Fiber? I've tried almond butter and raw broccoli, but does not taste right. FYI, if there is an Aldi's next to your house.. The almond butter taste much better than the the Costco Organic Almond Butter. The numbers on the sugars are about the same... Report
How is trail mix with m&ms a healthy snack? They are completely unnecessary since there is already sweetness from the dried fruit. I have made many varieties of trail mix over the years and have never needed to add candy; even when I was a scout leader or a youth camp counselor. At our house my kids know if they are hungry that they can grab one of the following snacks: fruit (whatever is in season or on sale), raw veggies (things like fresh broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, celery. snow peas, etc), hummus, lite string cheese, Greek yogurt, & air popped popcorn. My kids have been raised to choose healthy snacks. Report
I put this into MFP recipe creator and came out with 170 calories using pretzels not goldfish, since I can't stand the little unnatural orange things. It has a satisfying amount for a snack, I will be making this and putting it into snack bags for a quick snack, thank you Becky for sharing! Report
I'm afraid this wouldn't work for me either. I'm a binge eater. If the food is in the house I would eat it til there was no more. I don't know why I can't control myself around certain foods, but I just don't buy them. I have to make sure I have very healthy snacks in the house. Report
These are just tips, folks, some might help, some won't. From reading some of these comments, it's time for some of you to quit dieting for awhile, eat something good, and get your good mood back. That "fishwife" attitude is awful, I hate when I get that. It's not in the cards for many of us to keep semi starving hoping for miracles. Report
I'm glad this worked for Becky but it would not work for me. I would discard the mix and just eat the rest of the M & M's and goldfish. Best to just not have them in the house at all and when needed, reach for fresh fruit instead. Report
I agree with Icedemeter and Kriszta11 and various others. If you did make and portion the "healthy" snack recipe she gives in her article, you would get possibly 2 M&M's since the whole batch only has 1/4 cup of the stuff But 2 M&M's are enough to make me grab the opened bag and settle in for a night of binging.

Plus I think it's totally wrong that Spark bloggers post recipes, but don't enter them into Spark recipes so we can see where the calories are coming from and add them to our tracker. I guess they don't want us to realize that the numbers they give are bogus. Report