Control your snacking urges and get results
Everyone loves a good snack. A good snack not only hits the spot but also appeases your sweet tooth. In fact, Americans love snacking so much that we eat over 600 calories worth of snacks a day (more on that later). That is exactly what makes snacking one of the hardest parts of nutrition for people to control. Not only do we have a hard time controlling what we eat, but we also have a hard time controlling how much we eat (why have one chip when the whole bag only has 17 servings...)!
Let’s face it, we all love snacking. As we've said before, we can’t rid our diets of the things we love, or they will never be sustainable.
Snacking must be included in our diet but let’s take it under control! We asked a panel of fitness professionals from all over the United States how they recommend controlling snacking urges and what exactly they snack on.
It’s time for the expert panel to weigh in!
1. Control Your Blood Sugar
Time and time again the experts agreed that one of the biggest culprits for these snacking urges comes from swings in our blood sugar.
Jeffery Rowe operator of Core Physique Personal Training & Nutrition Studio and an ISSA certified personal trainer said, “When someone is having frequent sugar cravings, it usually means that they have significant swings in their blood sugar levels, because of the ingestion of refined carbs, & the ensuing large surge of insulin that this creates.
This insulin not only "mops" up the sugar you just consumed, but also depletes too much of your normal blood sugar levels. This is when you get the craving.”
Jeffery goes on to say that one way to fight the blood sugar swings is to eat plenty of fiber in your diet,
Fiber helps stabilize your blood sugar so that it won't swing so dramatically, which leads to cravings. Over the course of a day, you should be getting at least 25 grams of fiber in your meals and snacks.
Likewise, when it comes to controlling your blood sugar, Jasmine Jafferali a lifestyle and wellness consultant and the creator of the Snack Smart Solutions Snack App had this to say, “One way to control snacking urges is to make sure each snack has enough protein, to help stabilize blood sugars, fiber to aid and slow digestion and good fats to help make you feel satisfied.
The same goes for each meal we consume. Americans over snack by 600 calories per day because they are not doing this important part of eating and snacking throughout the day.”
2. Don’t Skip Breakfast!
Another culprit to blame for our snacking urges throughout the day is the fact that many of us commonly skip breakfast!
Let’s face it, this meal is super easy to skip at 6am when you are zombie-esque and in no mood to throw a decent meal together.
That's not a smart move; science has shown that eating breakfast in general can result in less snacking throughout the day (Schlundt et al 1992).
Linda Copeland an ACE specialist and owner of owner of Breakthrough Fitness said, “If you don't eat breakfast, your body will crave quick energy in the form of sugar or refined carbs. Be sure to start your day with breakfast, with a combination of protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and fat.” One combination of protein and fat is actually found in eggs.
In fact, eating eggs for breakfast can suppress your appetite throughout the day and can actually help induce weight loss (Vander Wal et al. 2008)!
Likewise, Dr. Jo author of REBOOT says to eat more earlier in the day to balance your blood sugar throughout the day, “Early eaters, who eat more of their calories during the day, tend to crave less in the evening because they keep their blood glucose stable all day long."
Nighttime eaters use their "willpower" to stave off cravings all day long, then run out of steam to keep up the momentum.
Get that breakfast in and it will set you up for a great day!
3. Outsmart Food Cravings
When those snacking urges hit all, you can think about is crushing a box of double stuffed Oreos. You literally cannot think of anything else so you end up going “just for one” … 50 cookies later the box is gone. One way to battle this to take your mind off of these snacking urges.
Rene Ficek is a Registered Dietitian who is also the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating (SSHE) says to outsmart your food cravings by picking up a phone and calling a friend or working on a hobby to take your mind off of that craving, “Soon enough, you will forget whatever it was you were craving. It's also important to keep a craving journal.
Note the time of day your craving appeared, how long it lasted, the food you craved, and how you handled the situation. You'll start noticing patterns so you can be better prepared to handle cravings in the future.”
4. Any Snacking Recommendations?
It never hurts to have as many healthy snacking options available that you can use to battle your urges and surprise your taste buds! Here are some great ones:
Jeffery Rowe recommends, “A handful of mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, & cashews) with a piece of fruit. Yes, fruits have sugar in them, but they also have fiber, which decreases their glycemic load.”
Jasmine Jafferali recommends fruit paired with protein or good fat to fight blood sugar swings.
Likewise, to stave off those 2-3pm urges and make it until supper she recommends, “Greek Yogurt mixed with some applesauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon is nice as cinnamon has been shown to help stabilize blood sugars and apples actually can boost your energy naturally without grabbing that cup of coffee.”
Dr. Shilpi Agarwal a board-certified Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine physician in Los Angeles recommends either a precut (so you don't overeat) dark chocolate bar to fend off the sweet cravings or hot tea.
Dr. Agarwal says, “Hot [tea] is my preference, but teas come in so many flavors that are sweet and take some time to drink so they are a good way to fight snack cravings.”
Linda Copeland has numerous snacks that she recommends that includes whole strawberries dipped in Greek yogurt. Other snacks include, “Wheat crackers (such as Triscuit) topped with cream cheese and sliced strawberries” and the really good idea of, “Nuts with the shells on-if you have to shell the nuts, you'll slow down and give your body time to feel satisfied and won't eat as many.”
Bobby Kleinau a certified personal trainer and a certified nutrition counselor (America Association of Drugless Practitioners) recommends drinking more water daily.
He recommends drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day! He also gives us his go-to food to battle cravings, “I take a table-spoon of unsalted almond butter and drizzle it with raw honey."
This is an amazing alternative to cookies, cakes, pastries, etc and one you can feel good about (as in everything, knowing when to stop is key).
Rene Ficek urges everyone to consume snacks that have a good protein and fiber content to help fill you up and keep you full. Several great snacks are:
* A hard-boiled egg with a half cup of fresh fruit
* Yogurt parfait with fruit and granola
* One cup of baby carrots with two tablespoons of hummus
* Half cup of high-fiber cereal with skim milk
* A handful of almonds and dried pineapple
The ability to control your snacking urges through controlling your blood sugar levels is very important.
We always recommend eating fruit for snacks because of its high fiber content, it’s sweet, and it’s convenient but it might be helpful to pair that with a handful of nuts as well or some other form of good fat and protein (i.e., protein bar).
Try some of these awesome snacks that mix a combination of fiber, good fats, protein, and even carbs for sustained energy and you can quench your snacking urges. In the end it’s only you against yourself… and you already know your weaknesses!
Plan ahead, don’t skip breakfast, and outsmart your urges and you will have no problem in the snacking battle!
Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, & Sharp T (1992) The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr 55:645-651.
Vander Wal JS, Gupta A, Khosla P, & Dhurandhar NV (2008) Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int, J Obesity 32:1545-1551.