In the Spotlight

Strategies to Stop Snacking and Start Eating Healthier

HOUSTON - Snacking is a common behavior that can quickly lead to weight gain. Often, foods we consider to be snack items are unhealthy for us. These foods are usually high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar. Additionally, uncontrolled snacking may result in the displacement of other, more nutritious foods in our diet.

Eat 3 Meals A Day
The most important thing to do to prevent snacking is eat three balanced meals a day. This will help you to stay full and avoid situations where you are hungry and tempted to overeat on snacks. Scheduling meals at the same time everyday will help train your body to not expect snacks. Also, choosing fiber containing foods as part of your meals will help to keep you feeling full. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

Don't Skip Meals
Once you are on a schedule of three meals a day, do not miss a meal. Skipping a meal will most likely result in eating a large snack that will end up replacing the normal meal.

Listen to Your Body
Learn to listen to your body for signs of hunger and fullness. If you feel the need to snack, step back and think before taking that first bite. Are you really hungry? It may be snacking is a behavior you are using to satisfy a feeling other than hunger, such as stress, boredom, anger, sadness, tiredness, nervousness, or loneliness.

Stop Snacks at the Door
Avoid snacking by not allowing snack-type foods in your home. Seeing these foods in your pantry may make you think you are hungry even when you are not.

Make a Plan
To keep yourself from snacking, make a plan of an activity you can do to take your mind off food. What are you going to do when you feel like snacking? Some examples of activities include going for a walk, reading an interesting book, or taking a nap if you are tired. Watching television may not be the best idea because the focus of many television commercials is food, usually snack food. The goal of your activity is to stop you from thinking about food.

Drink Water
Lastly, drink plenty of water; at least eight glasses per day (64 total fluidounces) (specific health conditions may require that you drink less than this - be sure to consult and follow the instructions of your health care provider). This may also help you to keep that feeling of fullness between meals. Besides, water transports nutrients and oxygen to your body cells and carries waste products away.

More Information For more information about healthy eating, call the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center Nutrition Clinic at (713)791-1414, ext. 4295 or visit www.Healthierus.gov or www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/behavior.htm.

Alicia Merritt, MEDVAMC Dietetic Intern

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