By Guest Blogger: Rebecca Weiss
When I was growing up every woman I knew was on a diet. My mother, my grandmother, my aunt, my next-door neighbor, my babysitters… And while each of them had their own approach—the grapefruit diet, the no white food diet, the fruit and rice diet—they all shunned one common evil: Snacking. Yes, all of your weight problems could be traced back to between-meal snacks. Snacks were bad. Snacks were a sign of your lack of willpower. Snacks were making you fat.
My mother made sure we never had cookies or junk food in the house, lest my brother and I snack on them when we came home from school in the afternoons. Instead there were whole-wheat crackers, peanut butter, and fruit. But I avoided them as much as I could, thinking that I was required to go without food until dinnertime, which was around 7 or 7:30 every night. Given that lunch was around noon, I would become very hungry after my walk home and then sit on the couch watching Charlie’s Angels re-runs trying not to think about the crackers in the kitchen.
More times than not, I broke down and had something to eat. And, in my hunger and feeling of “If I’m going to eat when I shouldn’t, I’m going to enjoy it,” I would grab the box of crackers and eat the whole thing. Or eat half a jar of peanut butter with a spoon. Then I felt guilty about my lack of willpower.
Over the decades attitudes toward snacks and snacking changed. Suddenly snacks were allowed, even encouraged, because they helped keep blood sugar consistent during the day and kept you from feeling so hungry you’d be inclined to overeat. This was great news in a way, but I still didn’t know how to snack. Was a candy bar a snack? The ads on TV seemed to suggest that. What about Snackwells? Snack packs? Is anything with the word “snack” on it actually a good snack?
I remember when the first 100-calorie versions of popular cookies and crackers showed up. The problem with these was that somehow eating 100 calories worth of Oreos or 100 calories worth of Wheat Thins just made me feel more hungry. It would launch an entire afternoon of craving more sweet or more salty.
Working with a dietician helped me come up with healthy snacking strategies. First of all get rid of the guilt. Snacking isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s part of nourishing yourself. People who snack aren’t lacking willpower, they’re listening to their bodies and responding with something to alleviate real hunger.
Turns out, it wasn’t what I was eating that was undermining my good snacking habits, it’s what I wasn’t eating—protein. You don’t find much of that in a candy bar, or Oreos or Wheat Thins. And, that’s why those foods were just making me more hungry. Over time I came up with a list of go-to snack foods that always satisfy. These include Greek yogurt, low-fat string cheese (which is great with grapes or other fruit), microwaved edamame, and protein bars. While peanut butter is a good source of protein, I find I can’t stop eating it once I start, so I generally avoid it. Most of these snacks have between 140 and 200 calories a serving, which is better than 100 empty calories any day. And, none of them have the word “snack” on them.
Rebecca Weiss is a writer, mom of two, and director of communications for a New York City auction house. In 2012 she started a fitness and wellness journey.