Snacks stave off cravings, overeating
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Monday, September 10, 2012
9/10/12 at 4:38 AM
"The biggest cause for overeating is undereating."
So says Stephanie Harris, a dietitian at Hillcrest Hospital South.
"Long periods between meals can set off cravings and cause you to over-indulge," Harris explained.
Mary Ann O'Dell, a dietitian at Akin's Natural Foods, agrees.
"Eating a little bit more consistently is healthier," O'Dell said. "You'll end up making better food choices."
So how do you eat more consistently? Snack between meals.
Local dietitians Mary Ann O'Dell and Stephanie Harris offer a variety of snack combinations:
Banana and some yogurt
Hummus and pita chips
Sliced vegetables and hummus
Baked tortilla chips, or black bean chips, and salsa
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread
Whole wheat crackers and peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter
Dry roasted or raw nuts
Dried fruit and nuts
Low-fat cottage cheese and fruit
Healthy snacking practices
The first thing to do when you're thinking of getting a snack is to determine whether what you're feeling is "real hunger," Harris said.
Many people engage in emotional eating, she said, such as eating because of boredom or stress.
If your last, well-balanced meal was less than three hours ago, it's likely that you're not really hungry, Harris said. Consider taking a brisk, 15-minute walk to get rid of the craving. Even leaving the room you're currently in or doing a different task can help.
Harris also recommends drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
"Don't let yourself get thirsty," she said. "Sometimes people confuse thirst for hunger."
If, however, you determine that what you're feeling is real hunger, don't be afraid of snacks, Harris said.
"Snacks can help with weight management and keep energy and metabolism going strong throughout the day," she said.
The key is to eat healthy snacks. Harris said to help you make good choices, eliminate temptation by not keeping unhealthy options in the house.
Conversely, always place healthy snacks within eyesight.
"Researchers have said if you keep fruit in a bowl on the counter, you're more likely to grab it," she said.
Harris also recommends taking some time to prepare fruits as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Wash them and cut them into bite-size pieces before placing them in the refrigerator.
For kids, consider making snack bags filled with vegetables and some yogurt as dip. These are easy to grab quickly, such as before heading out to a soccer game.
"People want to eat healthy, but sometimes those vegetables and fruits go bad because they don't prep them (immediately)," she said.
Also, never eat directly from the bag or box. Put a portion in a bowl or plate.
And finally, don't multitask or eat while you're distracted, such as while watching TV. That can make you eat more, Harris said, because you're not paying attention and you do not notice the signals that tell you you're full.
Tips for the kids
The same rules of healthy snacking apply to kids. But Harris and O'Dell have a few additional suggestions for parents.
First, don't reward children with food, Harris said. "That reinforces emotional eating."
Harris also tells parents to watch their kids' consumption of juice, which often has just as much sugar as soda.
And finally, use your judgment about whether kids are really hungry when they say they are.
Kids are often happy to "snack their life away," O'Dell said.
Parents have to consider whether a snack now will keep kids from eating their next meal.
Harris has a simple rule: "You get to decide what and when, and they get to decide whether and how much."
Qualities of good snacks contain carbs, protein
When it comes to selecting a snack, aim for something fresh, O'Dell said.
"As a general rule, the less processed the better," she said.
Applesauce is better than Fruit Roll-Ups, and apples are better than both.
O'Dell recommends reading the ingredients on packaged foods and trying to stay away from artificial colors and flavors.
Packaged snacks also tend to be high in sodium and trans fat, Harris said.
Look for snacks that have carbohydrates and proteins. The carbs will give you energy, and the protein will keep you full longer because it takes longer to digest.
For example, you can combine fruit with some cottage cheese to get the carbohydrates from the fruit and the protein from the cheese.
Snacks containing fiber also keep people full longer.
Harris said a good snack will generally contain between 150-200 calories and at least 7 grams of protein.
Original Print Headline: Eating often is healthier
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
Grape tomatoes and mozzarella sticks can make a healthy snack. Tulsa World file
Nuts and dried fruits, such as raisins, make a satisfying
snack. Tulsa World file
Fresh fruit and cheese cubes provide carbohydrates and proteins to fill you up. Tulsa World file
Dip red pepper strips in hummus. Healthy snacks should
contain 150-200 calories. Tulsa World file