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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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
Going to try the trail mix recipe. Thanks for the blog. Report
The attacks are few and far between Report
Right now, this is not really a problem but we will be traveling in the future and I need to plan for healthy snacks in the car...homemade trail mix is a good idea.
Thanx! Report
While I like the blog, why are you recycling content from last year....reading it is a good reminder...too bad we can't recycle the points for re-reading it.

I eat six small meals a day. I try to pick things that are a good blend of carbs and protein with some healthy fats. I have things like yogurt, kefir, tuna, eggs, oatmeal, nuts, fruit. There are so many good ways to eat healthy snacks... Report
THANKS!! Report
too bad this doesn't always work Report
I have been trying the Chobani yogurt flips which come in at around 140 calories depending on the combination. One compartment contains some goodies in a very limited amount and the other low fat yogurt. My favorites are the key lime and raspberry chocolate. They feel much more indulgent than my standard plain yogurt with berries and help me with my late night eating issues. Other brands have this type of product so this is not a commercial endorsement for the brand I mentioned Report
I try not to do mindless snacking. I always take an apple with me for the 3pm snack at work. I have protein bars for around 10am snack in the morning. So I am getting my fruits at lunch and in the afternoon. It's the evening I seem to have a problem. Even though I am eating fairly healthy, it doesn't seem to fill me up. I have snacks at home. I have jello that is sugar free, protein bars, small snack size bags of popcorn. I was thinking I even have carrots and dressing. So not sure why I don't get full? I don't even drink soda. I have my cup and half of caffeine in the morning and that is about it. Unless I have coffee during the day or a latte. I guess the latte could be making me crave other stuff, but it wasn't that way several months ago? Can anyone help with some advice? Good luck with your journey everyone! Report
I do need to snack between meals sometimes, or I will be ravenously hungry & binge on something unhealthy at meal-time. Some of my favorites that I rotate are assorted veggies with a bit of hummus, turkey pepperoni with light cheddar, cut up apple with peanut butter. The snack mix recipe sounds delicious, but there's no way I could trust myself around it! I am a hopeless carb addict, and have to watch my blood sugar, so things with protein work better for me. Report
I plan my snacks. I always have either baby carrots or cut up fruits ready to be eaten when I feel a craving coming on. I also have almonds on hand as well or a muffin that I have made and know the nutrient and calorie content. Report
Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches have helped with my chocolate and/or sweets cravings. I like the idea of the trail mix because sometimes I'm craving both sweet and salty at the same time. I'm going to also try giving it to my kids as an after school snack. Report
We always have the Blue Bunny no sugar added ice cream cartons, and the 100 calorie Skinny Cow or Healthy Choice or Creamsicle bars on a stick in the freezer, our 7 pm. snack choice that we plan for. My husband also saves his fruit snack for the evenings, no way do we not have a snack at night. Report
I am also a huge ice cream fan. I usually try to get Edy's fat free frozen yogurt or ice cream.

I recently made some Greek yogurt covered frozen blueberries and they are perfect for the evening snack cravings. Report
You seem to have it all together!! Great plan...... Report
I have a similar problem, with wanting a snack about 3pm and one in the evening. Glad to know I am not alone!
Thanks for letting us know about your trail mix recipe.
My favorite snacks include popcorn without salt, seasoned with a salt free seasoning and parmesan cheese. Also carrots and low calorie ranch dressing. Report
strawberries and yogurt or raspberries or blueberries Report
One of my favorite snacks is a yogurt or a piece of fresh fruit. I also like skinny cow snacks. Handle the craving without all the calories. Report
I have to include chocolate in my snack or it doesn't satisfy my addiction and I still want more! So I love your trail mix idea. Report
I love the fact that you include your snacks in the plan for your day Report
I've always been a snacker. Probably because cooking is not my favorite activity. In fact, I could live off of ice cream and popcorn if given the chance! But knowing this about myself, I plan several 100 calorie (or less) snacks throughout the day. A variety of fruits, veggies, cheese, and nuts are my favorites. Report
Going to make the trail mix recipe tomorrow. Need a go - to snack for those times when fruits/veggies aren't doing the trick. Thank you! Report
I do not snack. I struggled for a long time with being told that to be healthy, I should snack once in the morning, again in the afternoon. I ate the healthy snacks, when I could get myself to do this and found it hard. Now I don't snack because research is showing that eating every 5-6hrs and not after 9PM is far healthier than snacking. It fits better for me, I feel better and I am losing weight. When I do snack on occasion, it is for special treats and I work it into my healthy eating plan - like visiting family or friends, they bring out a plate of snack foods while playing cards, I will enjoy the snacks. I just don't go crazy and I work it into my plan. Report
I am having a real problem with evening snacking. It doesn't matter if I have eaten ALL day or not had anything. My only solution is to go to bed, and that's a bummer!!!! Report
Light yogurt (under 100 cal), almonds, baby carrots, string cheese, laughing cow wedges, various fruits, Fiber One 90 cal bars or brownies are amount many healthy snacks that I rotate so as to not get bored.
I have 3 meals and 2 snacks daily. My morning snack is usually at the same time as close to 1/2 way between breakfast and lunch as I can. My 2nd snack sometimes comes after dinner, depending on when I eat that meal. I just try to balance all of the carbs, proteins and of course, calories for the day. Report
I try to snack on nuts or fruit. If I have too many carbs I can't stop. Report
I think snacking is an important part of your daily routine. It can ward off hunger and get you throught to the next meal. Also, if you workout you may need the extra nutrition. I like to have string cheese and some kind of carb. for my go to snack. Report
I am just coming to terms with the idea that I need a snack at 3 PM or I'm toast. If I don't I am eating crap before I can get dinner prepared and after dinner= but a healthy snack= greek yogurt with 1 T of sunflower seeds or an apple with 1 T of peanut butter is just what I need to stabilize my eating... go figure???? and I read in this article that someone else does this... hmmm.... Report
Current favorite snacks: a mashed, frozen banana with a little bit of unsweetened baking cocoa, or equal parts cottage cheese and pumpkin puree mixed with a little bit of honey, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Report
Edamame is a great snack. Good protein which feels me up, keeps with my vegan diet, and tastes awesome! Roasted soy nuts are also good and you can buy them in bulk for cheap Report
If I need a snack, which isn't often, I have yogurt and berries. I'll have a fruit in the daytime, but not in the evening. Report
take two low calorie chocolate cookies, place a dallop or so of lite cool whip in the middle and make a sandwich. Then freeze. Almost tastes like an ice cream sandwich. Report
Oh. And chewing gum helps keep the munchies off. I always have a few fun flavors around. Report
Need a snack? Eat a carrot. Drink something (I usually go for something sweet like diet pop or crystal light). Wait fifteen minutes. Still need a snack? Eat an apple. And drink something. Wait fifteen minutes. Repeat. Before you know it you are either stuffed or it's meal time. Report
I love ice cream. I ONLY keep single-serve ice cream in the house, and limit myself to one per day. I give myself a treat, add it to my tracker, and am satisfied. Report
I make an effort to only have low-cal snacks in the house ... for ice cream it's frozen sugar free yogurt or Skinny Cow bars or Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom bars; Special K crackers or other reduced fat whole grain crackers & Laughing Cow low fat cheeses; or very simply I grab a 1/3 cup of Peanut Butter Cheerios (1 of my faves). This allows me to snack in measurable portions to stay within my caloric count for the day. Tough adjustment! Tho I admit, 1 day a week I allow some "cheat treats" which seems to satisfy that urge (french fries or bakery cookie). Report
I think your trail mix sounds good....I find when I have a craving for chocolate nothing else I make myself the 100 cal snack - the smore..2 graham crackers, 1 large marshmallow and about 6 semi -sweet chocolate chips. microwave for about 20 secs. Report
I agree that as yummy as the trail mix sounds it would start me on a carb binge. I am good all day and will eat a few dark chocolate kisses with 4-5 almonds if I really need something but save my lowfat yogurt (Kroger makes the best CarbMaster yogurt-60 calories, 8 gm protein and 6 oz) for my 8 pm dessert. That way I dont eat ice cream which is my downfall. Report
I'm looking for something off the shelf, low or reasonable carb, and satisfying. I do celery and carrots which are terrific but many times do not have the time to stop and prepare them for work. Also would like a break from the sameness. None of the health bars have low enough numbers and/or overlly sweet. Report

Cereal, pretzels, raisins and dried fruit and M&M's will all raise one's blood sugar levels quite a bit. Leading to a drop later on - and thus to more cravings. So the trail mix is not a healthy snack as I see it. Report
While the snack mix looks wonderful, it would surely prompt a binge. Tracking and planning a snack into my food plan seems to be the best option. But sugary foods are a huge problem for this gal. Report just emailed an article from Shape on the five habits slender women have that help them keep their weight down. Here is #2 on the list:

# 2 of Shape's diet tips: Pump up the protein
A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who got the highest levels of protein in their diets (around 110 grams daily, or 26 percent of their calories) maintained a 14-pound weight loss for more than a year. Those with less healthy eating habits, who got less than 72 grams of protein per day, or less than 19 percent of their intake from protein, only sustained a 7.5- pound loss during the same period.

"Higher amounts of protein may prompt the release of hormones that help you feel full," says Peter Clifton, Ph.D., lead study author and coauthor of The Total Wellbeing Diet.

Rather than getting additional energy from carb- or fat-laden fare, add protein to most meals and snacks. Sprinkle kidney beans or chickpeas on your salad, switch to protein-rich Greek yogurt from the regular variety, and trade your afternoon bag of pretzels for a mini cheese-and-turkey roll-up.