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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For a dessert type snack. I use one chocolate Vita cake (50 cals) + 3TBL. lite Cool Whip strawberries ,raspberries with a tsp. pecan pieces Report
I have a banana or a cup of yogurt. Sometimes a single serving of trail mix, as long as you do the whole portion thing works well. Report
Currently I am trying coconut milk with 500mg spirulina and an orange with 10 grams piloncillo. It has high carb content but I need it to keep my energy throughout busy day. It's my energy drink replacement. Report
I'd say my favorite snack would depend on what time of day it is. I usually carry nuts and protein bars in my purse. I love any kind of nuts: cashews, peanuts, pistachios, mixed nuts. I bought these little snack zip lock bags by mistake, and they turned out to be great. I put nuts or grapes or trail mix in them and eat them for my afternoon snack on the way home.

My evening snack is usually a skinny cow ice cream sandwich, or some other lo-fat ice cream bar. If I'm scheduled to start work at 7:00 then I will bring a yogurt for a snack seeing as my breakfast is earlier than normal. Report
Probably one of my most favorite snacks I enjoyed, and still do, is diced or sliced apples in a mix of low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat Philadelphia cream cheese and honey. Mix those two together and dip the apples, pears or even mix peaches. SO GOOD! ^-^ Report
My favorite afternoon snack right now is a sliced apple with a dip that I make out of 1/4 C nonfat, plain greek yogurt mixed with 2 teaspoons of either peanut butter or almond butter. Mmmmm. Tastes great and really fills me up! Report
I try to eat fruit in the morning for a snack. But night time is still hard for me. Your trail mix sounds good I will have to try that. Report
Sorry, Jesusan. I'm going to take the registered dietician's advice over yours on this one. I'm terrible about snacking - I do so well during the day, but when my husband leaves for his night job and I get ready for bed, the urge to snack is overwhelming. I try to fight it and I'm sometimes successful but I've been known to devour an entire box of Triscuits in one sitting. And then, of course, comes the guilt. And most of the time I'm not even hungry, because I eat a healthy, balanced dinner! I just snack because something makes my body think it wants it. I've tried to curb it by brushing my teeth right after dinner, but that interferes with my nightly cup of tea. I've also tried to stop buying the foods I can't seem to eat one serving of, only to catch myself reaching for - and finishing - a sleeve of plain old saltines just to have something to chew on. So it's tough. I just try to make myself remember how good I feel when I don't consume a huge amount of salty food right before I go to sleep, and how proud of myself I am when I'm able to say no. Report
I love yogurt and berries, or any kind of fruit smoothie made with Kefir. Report
Can't wait to try your trail mix Becky! Morning snack is usually a banana or Source fat free yogurt with berries. I also take a partitioned container to work almost every day with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices or grapes, and one turkey pepperoni or baby bell cheese for my afternoon snack. Keeps me from grabbing something when I walk In the door. Planning for snacks has been successful for me....cheers Report
15-30 grams of carbs & 3-5 grams of protein is NOT a balanced snack. When you feel the need snacks, even in the evening, it's probably because your body needs nutrition, even if there are emotional factors involved. If you don't eat every 2-3 hours, your body will go into starvation mode, which is counterproductive to your health, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Just make sure your last snack is at least 1 hour before you go to sleep. We eat 3 meals and 3 or 4 snacks a day, depending on how long our day is, and have been losing weight pretty steadily. Appropriate snacking is a healthy practice. Report
I am going to tried the trail mix. It will be perfect for my bedtime snack. I usually in the mood for something crunchy. Report
2 rice cakes, plain unsalted, with 1T Cashew Butter or Almond Butter and sometimes my homemade fresh fruit preserves, made with low sugar recipe.
Superb advice from everyone who are making a commitment to loose weight
I buy nuts in bulk. Cashews, pisthas, Almonds , from. Cashco cheap
And divide it equally in snack bags , max. 25 nuts. Intake . Report
I try and eat dinner early and immediately brush my teeth. Unfortunately it doesn't work in the late arvies. But at least it's SOMETHING! Report
When I have a sweet tooth, and I know that a piece of fruit just won't get it (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't), my go-to snack is to melt 1 oz chocolate chips (30 chips) = 70 calories and stir in 1/3 oz (8) raw almonds = 49 calories. A total of 119 sweet, savory calories that always takes care of my sweet tooth. Report
I would use Fiber One cereal, and use dark mini chips instead of M&M's...this would make it a healthier snack and of course raw nuts or raw pumpkin seeds might be good too Report
I am going to buy all and make some...any help we can get is thanks! Report
I agree about eating a carb loaded breakfast leading to all-day hunger.

I also snack every day - morning between breakfast and lunch and then again about 3PM. This trail mix will be just the thing. I have eaten other trail mixes before but don't like peanuts. So I usually pick those out. I like that I can customize this to my taste and still have it be healthy.

I'm trying to be sure to eat a lot more fruit and veggies. I love carrots or celery with homemade hummus! Report
I like to see that even the Spark Experts indulge sometimes. I see nothing wrong with an small indulgence like the ice cream in the evening. I am the same way. I think that part of my success so far has been that I don't deny myself something that I really want, as long as I can work it into my calories for the day. Report
On days where I start of with a breakfast of mostly processed carbs, I'm hungry all day - no matter what I eat for the other meals. Those days, I snack a lot.

However, if I start the day with a protein-filled breakfast, I'm less likely to snack, even if my meals are not large. I also prefer to make sure my snacks contain protein, so I'll have a sliced apple with melted peanut butter (1 TBSP) for a dip; or fat-free Greek yogurt and fruit; or hummus with veggies. For a snack on the go, I keep almonds in a small snack bag in my purse.

If I were to snack on Becky's trail mix, I'd be craving more carbs. You can have a trail mix without chocolate, especially if sugar causes cravings. Report
I love this article, there are days that I have to have a serving of Cheetos. But these days are far less often thanks to Spark People and tracking that helps me see what I am eating. Report
For me it's usually almonds or a small cup of yogurt. At first it was very hard for me to stop eating the whole bag of almonds (I love them dearly), but now I actually count them (no more than 20 at a time). The food tracker in SparkPeople helps so much! Also, I make sure that I don't have hi-cal / nutrient-poor snacks lying around the house (or else it's danger will robinson!). Report
Mindless eating is my biggest struggle. What I have found with my body is that I feel the need to eat every 2-3 hours so I try to make those times count. I have a healthy breakfast before my workout, then a post workout snack which is usually a recovery shake. I then have my lunch followed by an afternoon snack. I have dinner and then an evening snack. I just do my best to find healthy options. My favorite evening snack is a 90 calorie yoplait light that has been frozen. I let it thaw for 30 minutes for a frozen yogurt treat. I try to so hard not to, but I just think about food all the time and when my next meal/snack will be. Report
I am not a big snacker, but I usually have a banana at 3 p.m. on work days. I think I'll try the trail mix for something different. Also, I keep a box of Fiber One 90 calorie bars in my desk for those rare times that I am craving a late morning snack or I don't have a banana. Report
My go to snack is a ripe banana or 3. In fact, I so love bananas I wrote a whole blog about them. Lately, though, I have been trying to pay more attention to the nutrition of all the snack food I eat. Cheetos are my downfall. Report
This sounds really good, but what are Wheat Chex? We don't have them here in the UK. Hoping there's a substitute..... Report
I always have Skinny Cow or Healthy Choice frozen fudge bars on a stick in our freezer, summer or winter, for the 7 pm snack. I cut reduced fat cheese into one ounce pieces, wrap each up, and keep those ready. Trail mix never turned me on, ever, though I do have some walnuts in a bag in the kitchen. Report
Thank You Becky!! I could do this!! I will : ) Report
After several years at goal, my favorite snacks have really become very simple - plain celery, grape tomatoes, or baby carrots, for instance. I've come to develop a real desire for them on a regular basis! ( tastes actually changed after 60 years - LOL!) Report
I enjoy nuts for my snack. Report
This , is an excellent article! Shocking, what Americans eat!

My favorite snack is a medium banana, 105 calories.

I always keep bananas in the house!

Also, a medium orange, 67 calories, is also a great snack.

Also, I reallly like the Trail Mix recipe. I am saving it in case I need something a little more fancy than a single piece of fresh fruit. Report
My snacks are usually a granola bar or yogurt or a fruit. It used to be chocolate and little debbies. Report
I am so happy this blog was featured today. I have been working on my snacking...grazing I call it, for some time. This week, I've noticed that I am having two about the times Becky does. Wow, I think I'm going to stop fighting it. This week I went ahead and snacked and was careful about it and worked it into my plan and I think that is what I must keep doing. Thanks Beck! Report
Glad to hear someone else looks for snacks in the afternoon and evening.
Great idea to have trail mix handy and how much to eat. My go to snacks are yogurt, popcorn, fruit and baby carrots.
For hot weather we like to fix smoothies and ices made with fruit and fruit juices. Report
MY favorite afternoon snack is usually hummus spread on celery sticks or pita crackers. My biggest cravings are usually at night though. If they are in season, I like fresh strawberries with a little light whipped cream. For chocolate cravings, Jell-o sugar-free chocolate mousse is delicious! (and only 60 calories!) If I'm craving something baked, any of the Vita-Tops flavors (100 calories) are good with a glass of skim milk. Report
I have a favorite trail mix I buy in bulk from the food coop--it is mostly dried fruits and nuts, no chocolate or cereal. Very filling. I also love the Skinny Cow candy bars when I need a shot of chocolate, or the Trader Joes' 100 calorie chocolate bars. Having the snack pre-portioned is essential for me--when the bag is empty, I am DONE. Report
Great article thanks!
Chobani Greek Yogurt and an Apple is my go to snack in the afternoon.
Usually if I have a snack attack in the evening it's because I need a walk and a talk with my dh before we wind down for the night. Report
Glad I'm not the only 3pm and evening snack attacked person! Your trail mix sounds great! I have learned to take a piece of fruit and bottle of water to the office when the 3pm snack attack hits. I usually turn to a serving of airpopped popcorn in the evening. Report
I love fruit or air popped popcorn for my snack Report
Like a lot of folks here, I snack a lot, but keep my meals small. A good snack for me is a handful of radishes or some roasted garbanzo beans spiced with chipotle pepper. Report
Lately I've been devouring grape tomatoes like they are potato chips. I'll finish off a whole pint in one sitting. I think the trick is to change what you're snacking on. That has worked for me, anyway. Report
I snack on a variety of different things. Usually it's almonds. Report
where is the nutrition count for beckys trail mix? i'd like to try it but how do you log it to daily consumption? Report
Personally, I feel that snacking gets a really bad rap. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SNACKING A FEW TIMES A DAY!!! There, I've said it. I snack all the time and I've lost more than 60lbs and quite frankly, I would have never come this far if I hadn't learned to snack a few times a day.

Granted, I had to learn to snack right but at this point in my weight loss journey, I eat at least 5x a day (sometimes more) and most of the time it's a snack sized meal. Some people criticize me because it seems like I'm always eating but most days now, I'm eating when I'm hungry because my body needs it and not eating mindlessly when I'm bored and frustrated.

I track all my snacks/meals and I'm still staying within my allotted nutritional goal ranges most days. Even the days I don't stay within my nutritional goal ranges or don't even track my snacks/meals, those are my designated days off (I never call them cheat days) and I still basically eat when I'm hungry and my body needs food.

Anyway, that's the way I do it and it's been working for me for awhile now. As long as it's not broke and still working, I don't see any need to change it. JMHO :) Report
I need some help to get through until dinner. Maybe this will work. Report
Favorite healthier snacks are fruit and nuts, or nut butters. or just some nuts!!! I don't really snack on sugar, it will trigger more in me, at least right now. Report
Good idea to substitute a healthier snack. Report
Becky , thanks for this blog. Wow! It hit home.I just blogged about how my carb cravings are ruining the progress I make. I binge on processed carbs usually. Thanks for the tips. It feels good to hear someone else describing my thoughts. It makes me feel less hard on myself.I'll try the snack. Sounds like a great way to hit the cravings & get what you needin nutrition in a healthy way. Report
Thanks for the trail mix recipe. I have a hard time getting through the mid-afternoon and need a snack to help me make it to dinner time! Report