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Snack Attack

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Battle the bulge by eating smartly every three to four hours 

snack-attackA core nutrition principle that I frequently emphasize is eating continuously throughout the day, every three to four hours. This revs the metabolism and stabilizes blood sugar and energy levels. Three moderate meals and two to three healthy snacks per day is the only long-term solution for successful weight management (just to clarify—eating more frequently does not equate to eating more food).

If you are trying to lose weight, increase energy or simply want to be healthier, don’t forget to snack right. Some seasoned dieters skip snacks to conserve calories or reach for typical lower-calorie foods such as 100-calorie packs, pretzels, rice cakes, baked chips and so forth. Unfortunately, these selections are stripped of nutrients and are made primarily from white, refined flour and/or sugar (simple carbohydrates). These foods digest quickly, causing a surge in blood-sugar levels. What follows is a drastic drop in blood sugar, leaving you famished and hungrier for more.

It’s essential to include nutrients that keep you feeling full with every meal and snack. These sustaining nutrients include protein, fiber and a little fat, all of which take the body longer to break down. This maintains satiety, while additionally burning more calories during the digestion process.

A very general guideline of an appropriate snack portion for women is one serving of protein (7 grams), with one serving of a fiber-filled (complex) carbohydrate, such as fruit, whole grains and vegetables. A general guideline for men would be about double that portion.

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Look for complex carbohydrates that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, and read the ingredients. The first ingredient should be some type of “whole” grain or wheat. Avoid “enriched” flour, which is primarily white flour with a small amount of wheat flour added, in order to use “wheat” in the name. A few examples of products that appear to be healthy but provide little nutrients: Wheat Thin crackers, honey wheat bread, Nutri-Grain waffles, wheat pretzels. Reading labels is critical because marketing tools can be deceiving.

Here are a few super snack ideas:

  • Any type of fruit with an ounce of reduced-fat cheese, tablespoon of nut butter or a handful of nuts (100 calorie packs of nuts are now available and easy to grab and go).
  • 100-calorie whole-wheat tortilla or toast with peanut butter or a few slices of lean meat.
  • One serving of whole-grain crackers (Triscuits and All Bran are good choices) with cheese or nut butter.
  • Beef jerky.
  • Protein bars that contain less than 10 grams of sugar and greater than 10 grams of protein.
  • Greek yogurt (contains three times the protein of other yogurts).
  • A pack of Weight Control oatmeal.
  • A hard-boiled egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast.
  • If you like potato chips, try Soy Crisps, which contain 7 grams of protein per serving.
  • Veggies dipped in Greek yogurt flavored with ranch seasoning mix.

Try to avoid the obvious poor snack choices such as candy, cookies, potato chips and soft drinks. All foods are fine in moderation as long as the foundation of your diet consists of the nutrient-dense foods that make you look and feel your best.