Snack Attack!
By: Craig Ryan

You are at work and you've been back from your lunch break for 2 hours.  You have several more things to accomplish before the end of the work day, and you are starting to feel tired and sluggish.  You know that you need a little lift to get through the day.  You don't want to turn to caffeine, and you know that you really shouldn't approach the vending machine.  You want something that is going to fuel your body, and give you the energy to think clearly.  You want something for your body that will make you feel better about yourself and about the tasks ahead of you.  You know you need to try something new and make a change. 

You can make changes that will help you face your "Snack Attack"!  You can be prepared for that moment when you need something more to get you through the day, and you can be in control of what you put in your body.  With a little knowledge and forethought, the next time you have a "Snack Attack" you can be prepared to fuel your body with what it is REALLY craving--health and nutrition.

The Problems with Snacking
One of the primary drawbacks of snacking is that although many people are trying to eat multiple times a day, the increase of packaged snacks has contributed to obesity in America and many other countries.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity for both adults and certain ages of children has gone up as snacking has increased.  As Americans started eating more frequently, with more easy to get snack choices available to them, snacking has contributed to the rising rate of overweight and obese Americans. (CDC 2013)

For many people, eating multiple times a day increases the total amount of energy being consumed, and these unused calories are being stored as fat.  Whether eating 2-3 times a day, or 5-6 times, the simple reality is that extra calories that are not used by the body are stored in the fat cells.

One study found that Americans are eating the equivalent of 4 large meals a day now compared to 30 years ago.  This could be because of increased snacking between meals. (Melnick 2011) In addition, because many snacks people are choosing are unhealthy and overly processed packaged snacks, it has contributed to weight gain and health problems as well. 

Snack Strategy 1
Eat whole seasonal fruit as your primary snack between meals.
Eat whole fruit as your primary snack between meals, but only when you are hungry.  Focusing on whatever fruit is in season at the time can maximize the nutrition you get.  "In season" simply means choosing the fruit being harvested at that time of year.  The closer you get the fruit (or vegetable) to when it was harvested, the more nutrients the food will still have to offer.

Snack Strategy 2
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. 
When it comes to weight loss and snacking, it is important to make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day so you are not dehydrated.  What does this have to do with weight loss?  If you are dehydrated, it is often easy to confuse thirst for hunger!  In fact, the name for this common mistake is called "cue-confusion," which is based on the belief that the body may send the same type of signal to the brain when you're thirsty as when you want a snack. (Fassberg, 2012)

Controlling Snack Food Cravings
It is generally believed that food cravings are caused by physiological needs (need for water or other nutrients) and are caused by the head.  Many food cravings do not go away when we eat what we are craving. 

Following are some basic tips for curbing food cravings:

Refine your diet by eating healthier whole food and avoiding sugar and bad fats.  This will help reduce cravings.  Avoid high fructose corn syrups, MSG, and other food additives. 

Food affects your energy, mood, productivity, and happiness.  You are literally what you eat!  Eat healthier and smarter snacks and you will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much more energy you have. 

For more information on healthy snacking including tips, recipes for healthy snacks, and a plan to help you learn how to snack healthy,
see Snack Attack!, a course offered in the Employee Wellness Education Series by Online Learning Strategies.