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Boot~ique: How to be snack-smart

Does the idea of snacking between meals bother you?

You may think that adding snacks means adding calories that will cause you to gain weight. However, adding snacks to your daily meal plan may be the key to finally losing weight.

In short, snacking is not supposed to replace a meal.

The best way to snack is to pace yourself, don't allow your snacks to have the same amount of calories as a full meal, and keep your snacks healthy.

Studies suggest that a little nibble between meals can help reduce your overall caloric intake because it can decrease hunger and lead to less overeating at meal time.

Using snacking to control the urge to take your body to the brink of hunger pangs before your next meal is a healthy way to shape your diet and forgo overeating.

Many people do the exact opposite.

They make dinner plans and then essentially starve themselves until dinner so they can pig out. That is a very unhealthy way to control your weight and can actually do more harm than good.

Make snacks work for your diet

Now that you know that snacking can be healthy for you, understanding that there is a wrong way and a right way to snack is necessary. It should go without saying you should avoid sugary items like candy and soda. Again, don't consume enough calories with a snack to constitute a meal.

Instead, eat foods that will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller, longer. Fruits and vegetables are always a great choice because they are low in fat and calories. Yogurt, fruit smoothies, even a slice of whole-wheat toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter all make great snacks during the day. Combining protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates go a long way toward helping you feel fuller, longer.

Bigger isn’t always better

Three square meals a day is so old-school. A few more – although smaller – meals is a better way to consume your calories. Eating at regular intervals helps your blood sugar levels (aka your energy supply) remain stable. Eating this way will also help you avoid that dreaded mid-afternoon energy slump.

Additionally, eating every few hours can aid you in meeting your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, as well. The real benefit of snacking is that it can add extra nutrition that might be missing from other meals.

Snacking is NOT the same as mindless eating

Mindless eating is just that; mindless.

Sure, you may start with a few of your favorite crackers, but if you practice mindless eating you may end up finishing the entire box without even thinking about it (or even taking the time to enjoy it). That behavior is not going to help with weight loss.

Tips to avoid mindless eating

  • When preparing as snack, use small plates and leave the kitchen. When your plate is empty, snack time is done.
  • Never eat out of the bag or container in front of the television or computer. Enjoying your snack without distraction can help you avoid temptation to eat more.
  • While at a party, don't mind the store; meaning don't stand by the snack table and talk. This can often lead to unintended binging because you may be paying more attention to the conversation and less to the amount of food consumed.
  • Limit yourself to a single serving.
  • Plan ahead. When you have an idea of what you will eat all day, you can better gauge the type of snacks that make more sense for you.

Keyword: moderation

As with any healthy eating plan, moderation is important when snacking. Make sure that you are tracking your snacks with the larger meals you eat during the day. If you don’t keep track, you may slack on exercising and end up gaining weight instead of losing it.

Adding snacking to your diet can be a great thing, just don’t sabotage your progress with unhealthy nibbles throughout the day. Be sure to eat healthy whenever you have the chance. If you know you have a weakness for junk food or sweets, don’t purchase these "foods" at the grocery store. Then you won’t have to fight that temptation when the urge to snack hits.

There are great recipes and snack ideas on the Fitness blog. Enjoy!

Jaylin Allen is a local fitness expert in San Diego, known for getting her clients in shape in record time through her popular "Boot Camps For Women" and "Zumba" classes. For more information about Jaylin, fitness, or her classes, be sure to check out Bootique Fitness or call (619) 602-8087.