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Control the Urge to Snack


Uncontrollable snacking is a habit many people don't realize can be corrected by simple dietary and behavioral changes.

In general, the urge to snack comes from poor eating habits or a lack of awareness about nutrient balance. Follow these tips to help turn snacking into a healthy, guilt-free experience.

Eat protein

When you're hungry, it's usually because your body is out of fuel. The fastest way to fuel the body for the longest amount of time is to eat sources of protein, like lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds or tofu. Aim to eat a serving a protein with your first meal of the day, as that will keep you full and help prevent the urge to snack. If you're getting a lot of exercise or have a physically demanding job, eating protein is even more important.

Eat often

Nutritionists still debate whether or not eating three larger meals a day is better than five or six small ones. But if you find yourself snacking uncontrollably, try to change your diet so that you're eating more often but in smaller amounts. Have breakfast around 8 a.m., a healthy snack around 10 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack around 4 p.m. and dinner no later than 7 p.m. Make sure you also carry around portable snacks, like protein bars or fruit, so that when hunger strikes, you have something healthy to eat.

Nutrient balance

A big part of feeling full has to do with nutrient balance. It's important to be eating a balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats and protein every time you eat. This will help your body properly turn food into energy, helping you to utilize it most effectively and prevent cravings. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 45-65 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, 20-35 percent come from healthy fats and that 10-35 percent come from protein.

Reduce sugar and gluten

Blood sugar has a lot to do with food cravings. The more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar rises. Then, it dips down low again after your body has processed the sugar, leaving you wanting to eat in order to reach that same energy level again. For many people, it's not just sugary snacks or soda that create this problem - it's a diet with too many carbohydrates or wheat products. Try cutting out gluten from your diet, too. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and reduce the severity and frequency of your food cravings.

Develop a new routine

Unhealthy snacking can also be a behavioral problem. If you tend to snack when you're bored or watching TV, for example, try creating a new routine to help you avoid the association with eating. When you're watching TV, try doing something different, like painting your nails or drinking tea, to help create a new habit. Manage boredom with a new exercise routine. Create a list of fun and satisfying things you can do other than eat, and when the urge to snack strikes, you'll be prepared.

Source: Web MD