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How to Turn Snacking Into Your Secret Diet Weapon

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Let's face it: the pothole in every dieter's road to success is hunger. We don't eat just because something tastes good: we eat because we're totally starving! Strategic snacking is one of the most effective weapons you have against a poor food choice or (shudder!) a binge. When you keep your hunger in check with an appropriate snack, you're making it much easier to stick to your healthy food choices. But there's a key word here -- strategic. You want to be mindful of what you're putting in your body. If you snack mindlessly (and sometimes stress or fatigue can promote mindless snacking) you'll be adding extra calories to your daily intake without accomplishing your goal of minimizing hunger.

My Top Strategic Snacking Tips

Know Yourself. Some of my clients have told me that strategic snacking has enabled them to lose weight that they've never been able to lose before. But other clients learn that they don't need snacks at all. How do you tell? It's simple: try going from lunch to dinner without a snack. If you find that you are able to make good choices at dinner and that you're not utterly starving, you probably don't need a snack. If, on the other hand, you're desperate to eat just about anything by the time 5pm rolls around, you are a good candidate for a mid-afternoon snack. In general, most people who feel they need a snack do well to have a single mid-afternoon snack. People who require more calories because of size or activity level might also choose a mid-morning snack and/or an evening snack. Again, the key is to know yourself and limit your snacking to what's useful and strategic in helping you reach your goals.

Meet the Snacks.
OK, so you know you really need a snack to help keep you on track. What do you choose? Here are some of my top picks:
  • If you need a mid-morning snack: Choose a light snack of around 80 to 100 calories. This might be an apple, SeaSnax STIX or other roasted seaweed snacks, a Vermont Smoke and Cure Beef Stick, a single-serve pack of Barney nut butter with 1-2 Orgran crackers or a Veggie-Go's fruit snack.
  • If you need an afternoon snack: Stick to around 200 calories and look for fiber and protein. A few good choices include: a Yawp Bar, a RXBAR or Wholly Guacamole 100 calorie mini cup and some cut-up veggies or 2 Orgran crackers.
  • If you need an evening snack: An evening snack should be around 80 calories and it should be eaten right after dinner. A few good choices include Bissinger's 100 calorie dark chocolate bar, a frozen Greek yogurt or Ruby Rocket's Fruit & Veggie non-dairy blend or frozen pop.

Watch your Weekends. Weekends can be a tough time to diet. You're off schedule. You're socializing and spending time with friends and family. Snacks can play a big role in helping you stick to your eating goals. I suggest you keep lots of healthy snacks on hand for weekends. It's better to over-indulge in a healthy snack than to lose control at a brunch buffet! For more good choices in addition to all the snacks mentioned above, check out this guide.

Don't be a health-snack-nut. Not all portion-controlled "healthy" snacks are created equal. Well, first there are the calories... even portion controlled snacks can pile them on. You also have to look out for processed and unnatural ingredients making up for whatever is making those products "low-sugar" or "low-fat." Plus, many of my clients tell me that they find it impossible to stop at one little snack! Moreover, for many dieters, the practice is worse than the calories. Once you get accustomed to downing a nibble here and a bite there it can be a hard habit to break.

So limit your snacks to my recommended choices and enjoy them strategically, not mindlessly!