April 23, 2009

An Ode to Sensible Snacking: Meeting your bad habits head on

OK, this is going to seem like a totally neurotic post... but I'm unveiling my weird snacking habits with the hope that this will be helpful to some people!

Avoiding cravings and finding out how to control bad habits is such a victory if you're dieting. And I think many would agree that only 25% of avoiding temptation is willpower. The rest is often just meeting cravings head on by knowing what your weaknesses are and coming prepared.

I have come to realize that I gain weight when a change in my routine occurs because I don't know how to anticipate when I'll want a snack. The same reason so many college students gain that "freshman 15" (and by so many I mean myself included) is what made me gain weight when I moved to D.C. Not only was I in a new city - with lots of great new restaurants to try - but it was the beginning of the 9 to 5 work schedule: an entirely different environment, with new stresses and tempting activities that would make me want to give in. So, after many years of adjustments and new situations that have made me put on a pound or 10, I feel like I'm getting the hang of understanding when I crave foods most, and learning what low calorie snacks actually satisfy my cravings so that I can stave off the need for bad food that's constantly calling my attention.

Here are some of my own observations about the way I eat, and what helps me avoid eating something I shouldn't. It may not work for other people, but it may help you learn more about how you eat!

  • I have a bad history with controlling my portions. This is particularly bad since I am someone who views a snack as a mental break. Maybe all I really need is to just stop what I'm doing and walk around for a minute to take a break, but unfortunately that usually involves walking to the kitchen.... So, I know now I need to be prepared with lots of little snacks throughout the day, and that I have to come up with snack ideas that are low enough in weight watchers points that I can stay within my range.
  • For instance, I know I need a snack at around 11 in the morning. I don't know why, but it always happens, and often times I'm craving something salty (perhaps as an antidote to all the sweet coffee and breakfast in the morning?) So, I've started making it a point to have snacks around that are about 2 weight watchers points for this occasion - just a little something to get me through the rest of the morning for a light lunch later.
  • I drink water all day, and I mean all day; I probably drink about 8 glasses of water throughout the work day alone, so I've learned to keep the Nalgene at my desk constantly filled.
  • I will almost always prefer something warm and savory for lunch. Otherwise, a sandwich or cold salad can feel too much like diet food. And we all know that when you're not reall feeling what you brought for lunch, you're more likely to a) spend money going to get something else, and b) break the calorie bank by eating somehting you shouldn't. Not to mention warm food just feels more like a meal and is more filling in my opinion (haven't they shown that in a study somewhere, or did I just make that up?) Anyway, I usually make lunch a 4 point meal/snack that can be something I made at home and is easily reheated.
  • After this savory lunch, I usually want a Diet Coke or a Fresca. I now keep a 12 pack of each in the cabinet of my cubicle so that I don't waste money on vending machines during the work day.
  • I always want something sweet mid-afternoon, and it's best if I can satisfy that in only a point or 2. Sometimes fruit will satisfy this, but let's be honest, a lot of times I want this to be a chocolate flavored carb.
  • And then I start getting hungry right at the end of the work day. Another 2 point snack will usually tide me over, and helps get me through a work out session or errands until I can eat a small meal later. Otherwise I head straight home for something savory for dinner and won't go do what I need to. I've found that going ahead and eating a little something before I leave work means I'm less likely to over eat when I do eat dinner later, and it helps me be productive without rushing through work at the end of the day, or blowing off exercise and errands just so I can go eat.
  • When I do get to dinner, I generally want a real meal. It's the same thing that I encounter with lunch - I can't just eat a salad and feel satisfied. So I have to think of really filling, warm and savory meal ideas that are low in fat, but tasty enough to keep me from making a big bowl of pasta instead. Most of the dishes I post on this blog will fall into this category!
So, given some of the needs I know I have throughout the day, I make food for my main meals that is full of flavor, but low enough in fat and calories that I can afford some good snacks throughout the day. A lot of the meals I post about generally fall between 4-6 points so that I have room for some 2-3 point snacks. So, here are some of my favorite snack ideas, and I'll try to write a post that rounds up my favorite meal ideas, too!

Some good salty or savory 2-3 point snacks:
  • one hard boiled egg is 2 points
  • 5 mini cubes of light Laughing Cow cheese (1 pt), spread on approximately 7 Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits (2 pts.)
  • 1 serving of light soup (roughly half a can, I like Progresso's line of Weight Watcher's friendly soups.) - 1 pt.
  • about 3/4 cup of this roasted edamame salad, or just a good serving of steamed edamame by itself (about 2-3 points)
  • about 1/2 cup of this lentil salad for 2 points, or double the serving for a small meal.
  • 1 chunk of cheese (usually 2-3 points if you don't go overboard)
Some good sweet 1-3 point snacks (perfect for that late afternoon craving):
  • Chocolate Vita Top (1 point and they are GOOD! 18 seconds in the microwave, and then toasted a little)
  • 1.5 cup of mixed fruit salad (blackberries, strawberries and diced pear, OR honey dew and cantaloupe mix have been my favorites lately. 1 cup of strawberries is 1 point, for instance.)
  • 1 slice of low-calorie bread, 1 Tbsp Nutella is around 3 points. Just be careful that your spoon doesn't keep going in the jar for more... you'll rack of calories fast that way. I generally can't be trusted with Nutella around.)
  • A small bunch of grapes, and 5 cubes of that light Laughing Cow cheese.
  • And finally, my favorite 3 pt. dessert: Strawberries over angel food cake (slice strawberries, add splenda, and mash it all so that it turns into a juicy sauce. pour about 1/2 cup of this mixture over 2 thin slices of angle food cake (I get pre-sliced from a grocery store bakery section so its easier for portions and so I can read the nutrition facts).
    Add a dollop of fat-free Cool Whip for a delicious strawberry shortcake taste. You should double check the nutrition facts of the cake, and recalculate on your own to make sure you're not going overboard, but I account for 2 points from the angel food cake I use, and about 1 point for the strawberries and tbsp. of Cool Whip if it's fat free. IT IS DELICIOUS, and leaves you feeling like you had a real dessert instead of just a bite. I probably should write a whole post on this one!

Does anyone have any other good snack ideas?


  1. Those are all great tips! I can NOT be trusted around nutella either- or peanut butter for that matter, so I try hard not to keep those around.
    Dried and fresh fruits work best as snacks for me. Fresh fruits have very high water content so they are low in calorie, high in fiber and keep you feeling full. Also, luna bars and lara bars are great for snacks! They are 180 calories each and I like them better than any other energy bar that I have tried. I don't know the weight watchers point calculation on these but they work for me!!

  2. Thanks for writing about things we all struggle with! I love your tips.