I am guilty of doing a lot of snacking after dinner.  It’s mostly mindless eating in front of the TV, but I can’t seem to stop the munchies!  What can I do to stop?! – Mindless Munchies

Don’t let yourself become that stereotypical couch potato, holding a bag of chips and zoning out in front of the TV!  It can be hard to resist snacking after dinner, especially if you have a sweet tooth, but there are several precautions you can take to prevent yourself from over-snacking:

  • Make over-eating impossible. 

    Who can eat just one chocolate chip cookie? Keep ’em out of sight! (www.tatesbakeshop.com)

    Never take a whole box of crackers or cookies to the couch with you.  An unfinished bag of pretzels in your lap?  How can you say no?  If you only take out a single serving and eat with water or a cup of tea and put away the rest, you’re much less likely to get up and reach for more.  Out of sight, out of mind.

  • Change your idea of “snack food.”  Snacks come in many forms.  If you crave something sweet at night, reach for fruit instead of chocolate chip cookie (who can have just one?).  Sometimes a craving for sweetness can be satisfied with just a bit of honey in a cup of herbal tea, for a fraction of the calories you’d consume by unintentionally eating the entire pint of ice cream or frozen yogurt.  Especially because thirst is sometimes disguised as hunger, try drinking something flavorful and low in calories before you grab a snack.
  • Eat whole foods.  A lot of mindless eating occurs not out of hunger, but out of boredom.  I find that whole foods take a lot longer to eat than processed ones—but in a good way.   Shelling a handful of pistachios with unsulphured apricots will keep your idle hands busy for longer than if you were eating a serving of potato chips.  And the result will be much more satisfying!
  • Eat your fiber!  If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of your meal, you’re likely to keep grazing over snack foods until you feel satiated.  Insoluble dietary fiber, found in vegetables, beans, and whole grains, is very filling. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fiber at dinner, and if you still feel like you need a snack later, choose high fiber fruits, or air popped popcorn (without butter).  Popcorn has a surprising amount of fiber and will fill you up more than other snacks.
  • Turn off the TV.  Watching TV doesn’t usually require your undivided attention, which makes it easy to zone out and eat while you watch.  Try changing your after-dinner routine.  Go for a walk with a friend or spouse, play a game with the kids, or read an engaging novel.  When you’re involved in a fun activity, the desire for food will naturally move to the back burner.

– Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life, and founder, HealthBarn USA

Do you have a confession to share with Stacey?  Want to learn how to improve an unsavory habit?  Send your stories our way to [email protected], and Stacey will help!

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