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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PATRICIAAK 9/19/2019
:) Report
DRAGONFLY631 5/7/2019
Good ideas Report
JOCELYNH711 4/26/2019
Thanks Report
ROBBIEY 4/19/2019
Thanks again Report
2DAWN4 4/18/2019
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
MSROZZIE 3/19/2019
Good need-to-know information, thanks. Report
ERIN_POSCH 3/19/2019
I substitute dark chocolate chips for the m&ms Report
CHERYLHURT 2/23/2019
Excellent Report
CHERYLHURT 2/23/2019
Excellent Report
2BDYNAMIC 12/25/2018
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
EMGERBER 11/9/2018
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
This trail mix seems to have a rather high craving-inducing potential to me.
I mean, if I eat an unplanned banana or cheese sticks, I can stop... but who can stop after eating a handful of sweet and salty simple carbs? Not me for sure. I would only keep the dried fruit and the unsalted nuts if I wanted a safe snack. Report
I like the idea of individual packaging, but I can't bring most of this stuff in the house: m and m's, goldfish, ice cream .... I'm a compulsive overeater, and if I bring the stuff into the house I will eat it all! Same way I quit smoking... had to stay away from other smokers, stop smoking in my car, then in my house .... Now I'm 10 years smoke free and 90 pounds thinner, so my method is working for me. For snacks, I eat stuff I won't binge on. Fruit, nuts, single serve popcorn. The processed stuff is designed to make us binge. There's a science behind it, and that science keeps us fat! Ms. Hand doesn't fall victim to it, which is great for her, but I'm not that lucky! My genetic roll of the dice demands that I stay away from the processed foods! Report
You may cut back for awhile, now and then in your life, but NEVER for good!! Report
Snacking when I get home from work is my downfall. Often 500 calories or more. We all have such varying schedules, it's hard to know when we'll have supper, so I snack until that gets figured out. And then have supper, too. The most effective way for me to avoid snacking is to be the last one home, thus heading straight into supper with no time to snack. Not always possible. I'm still trying to work out this issue. Report
I have 3 meals and 2 snacks every day, or at least on work days. Breakfast at 630AM, snack at 10AM, lunch at noon, snack at 3PM, dinner 6PM. Maybe dessert, but no snacking after dinner. Snacks are usually string cheese, greek yogurt, nuts, fruit, veggies with ranch or hummus, wheat thins with laughing cow cheese, or fiber one bars when I want chocolate. I work 10 hour days, so I rely on protein to get me through. Sometimes I eat sweets (I have awesome European chocolates I ration out) but then I'm so hungry by the time I get off work. Report
I would love to see the trail mix recipe nutritional information that was used for the article, since it looked interesting enough for me to consider. I couldn't find it on the SparkRecipes side, so entered it myself so that I could find it later. I was a bit shocked that it came out as 233 calories per serving (not the 160 that is claimed in the article) and 36g of carbs (not 25 as claimed). To be fair, there isn't actually a volume-measured listing for the Goldfish anywhere, so I guessed that a single-serve would be about 1/2 cup (even though it looks more like 1/4 - 1/3 cup). Still...

I was also disappointed to see that even with the heavily fortified cereal in there, the vitamin / mineral amounts still were mostly not as high as they should be for the calories (for 233 calories should be 11.6% minimum - only hit that for folate, iron, and zinc). The nutritional info is not complete for the Goldfish, but I doubt that there will be much missed from such a heavily processed product.

I'll be skipping this one and sticking with fruits, vegetables, dairy, and home-made items with high nutrition. While I applaud Ms Hand's honesty in sharing that her personal snack choices aren't necessarily the most healthy, it seems a bit odd that the recipe shared doesn't live up to the minimal "healthy, balanced" qualifications outlined in the article. Report
My snacks tend to be pudding, yogurt, protein bars, single serve popcorn, a spoonful of peanut butter, pretzels, raw nuts, fruit. These are what I eat when I am trying to be more careful and am actually losing weight.

When I get in trouble and gain weight tends to be when I do ice cream, candy, cookies, cakes, etc. Report
Seems to me most of these snacks have WAY to much sugar. Even the trail mix with, pretzels, dried fruit and M&M's?? Might as well eat a candy bar !! I've found the higher protein ratio works better for every meal and snack. Then the sugar cravings aren't as bad. Report
I have so many habits to change that I look forward to learning more about what works for others so that information can help me. Thank you everyone. Also, I don't use Facebook so does that rule me out or in?
Im out of work for the last 7months my unemployment ran out and im so tired . I have gained 15 lbs since this all happened .
Where do i begin ? how many calories do i start with and anyone have ideas what to eat and how i can snack i do good with the water i drink about 9 glasses a day And im always running you know where ha ha
Any help would be great .
Diane EM TY TY
I snack all day, and am losing nicely. My problem with snacking in the past, was nuts. I snacked on nuts every night, way too many calories in nuts, switched to popcorn, problem solved. Report
I usually have raw almonds, protein bars and fiber bars in my drawer at work for snacking. Now that I'm unemployed, I am finding it harder to be healthy. Working on it though. I like some of the things that have been listed in comments...may have to add some of them. Report
I will take chocolate graham cracker and spread cool whip inside ..Make it into a sandwich, put in the freezer .. At night time, its like having ice cream with a little crunch Report
What would the calorie count be for this? Report
Go to unhealthy snacks before: Chips, crackers, chocolate, ice-cream, nacho chips, etc.

Go to healthy snacks now: Fruit, Unsalted or lightly salted nuts, popcorn, sugar-free jello, a small amount of melted dark chocolate with lots of strawberries or a Banana Baby if I'm having a chocolate craving. Report
I usually want to munch on salty or sweet things before bed. So I just deny myself and go to sleep instead. If I still want it in the morning, it becomes breakfast, but that rarely happens. So sleep is my snack-skipping method! Report