Match your habits with one of the samples below, then find out how to snack smarter:
Those of you who eat at night • Sample Day:
Breakfast: bagel with cream cheese Lunch: nothing
Afternoon Snacks: 5 Cinnamon sticks, handful of sunflower seeds, a 100-calorie bag of popcorn
Dinner: spaghetti with tomato, grilled calamari, zucchini
Evening Snacks: tomato and cucumber salad, 3 mini peanut butter cups, 2 cookies, sunflower seeds
Snack Totals: 1,973 calories, 90g fat, 71g sugar
The Problem: The bagel breakfast is the equivalent of nearly 5 pieces of bread and has little satiating protein or fiber, setting you up to be starving all day. You’re probably getting a sugar high, crashing, then reaching for more sugary snacks to boost your energy levels again.
The Fix: Grazers think skipping meals saves calories, but they’re more likely to binge eat later. You could’ve had a satisfying burrito bowl (brown rice, beans, steak, veggies, salsa, cheese) for lunch, and a banana with Nutella as a snack, and still saved 1,128 calories.
Those of you who hate to cook • Sample Day
Breakfast: peanut-butter meal-replacement bar
Lunch: chicken ranchero enchiladas, sweet potato fries
Dinner: chicken breast, 2 tangerines
Evening Snack: strawberry nutrition bar with Greek yogurt coating
Snack totals: 410 calories, 12g fat, 32g sugar
The Problem: The total snack calories aren’t crazy, but they lack nutrients. You grab whatever you convenient when you’re hungry. Most of what you’re eating is devoid of filling fiber. Those bars are processed junk. Even dinner is an unsatisfying hodgepodge.
The Fix: You don’t have to cook. You just need to make better choices that are equally convenient. If you eat a more substantial breakfast, like peanut butter on whole wheat with a banana, you can have a lighter lunch. At night, you could swap the bar for easy, precut veggies.
Those of you who addicted to ‘healthy’ snacks • Sample Day
Breakfast: oatmeal with milk, brown sugar, walnuts, cranberries; whole wheat bread with butter x honey
Lunch: hot dog, chips, 2 cookies, plus string cheese, apple, oat bar
Afternoon Snack: 2 oat bars
Dinner: roast chicken, Brussels sprouts, slice of bread with butter and jam
Snack totals: 775 calories, 24 g fat, 61g sugar
The Problem: The bars have healthy ingredients like flax seeds, but three of them add up to 600 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 42 grams of sugar. The next problem, you dining under the illusion that what you’re eating is good for you.
The Fix: You can enjoy the occasional freebie lunch, but you didn’t have dinner until seven hours later. Of course, you needed a snack! If you’ve planned to eat a hearty dinner sooner, you could’ve tided yourself over with just one bar.
What Type Of Snacker Are You? Find out how to snack smarter!
FIND OUT HOW TO SNACK SMARTER
If it’s done correctly, snacking can help keep your metabolism humming and prevent overeating at your next meal. These tips will save you from reflexively grabbing just anything.
• Know If You Need a Snack
People have heard that they should eat five times a day, but the truth is that it’s good to get hungry between meals. If you don’t feel hungry or notice your energy dipping, there’s no need to nibble.
When you feel a snack attack coming on, consider whether you’re hungry or just anxious, lonely, or tired and how long it’s been since your last meal. If it was an hour ago, there’s no way you’re hungry. If it’s been at least a couple of hours, you’re in the clear to eat something light until your next meal.
• Perfect the Composition
Foolproof snack formula: about 175 calories, at least 3 grams each of fiber and protein, plus healthy fats to slow digestion. Try pairing cut-up veggies with hummus, or Greek yogurt with fruit and a little granola.
• Don’t Snack After Dinner
Since most of what we eat late at night tends to be sugary, experts suggest staying out of the kitchen. If you really want a treat, have it right after your last meal so that you’re not noshing until bedtime.