Take control of your snacking

Lesley Dobson / 21 May 2015

It's not just breakfast, lunch and dinner that pile on the pounds, what about those in-between nibbles? Find out how to beat those snack attacks.

The odd thing about snacks is that although they become a part of our daily routine, they can become invisible when we’re totting up the calories. The odd biscuit here and there, cheese and crackers in the afternoon, and a little chocolate in the evening, aren’t meals, so surely they don’t count.

But you just have to step on the scales and see that they definitely count. Those invisible snacks really help to push your weight up, and it’s not surprising when you look at their calorie, fat and sugar content.

  • One chocolate digestive contains 83 calories, 3.9g of fat and 10.4g of carbohydrates, of which 4.9g are sugar.
  • An English muffin without butter has 167 calories, 1.4g of fat, and 30.3g of carbs, of which 2.6g are sugar.
  • 30g of cheddar has 125 calories, 10.5g of fat, but under 0.1g of carbs.

“We can’t all manage on three meals a day, that’s almost impossible,” says Dr Jane McCartney, psychologist). “So plan the snacks you’re going to have during the day – it’s the ones that aren’t planned that are the dangerous ones.”

If you have food out on counter-tops or on the table, make sure they’re healthy foods – not a tempting tin of cookies.

“Out of sight, out of mind is one of my big mottos. If you’re going to have food where you can see it, and it’s a temptation, make sure it’s healthy food, and only in small amounts,” says Dr McCartney.

Read more about how to choose healthy snacks

Dr McCartney’s five quick tips for controlling your snack habits

  • “Make a list of everything you’re going to eat, every day, including snacks. Make sure that they are healthy snacks though, like fruit or rice cakes.
  • “Replace part of an unhealthy snack with something healthy. So if you always have three biscuits with a cup of tea in the afternoon, have one biscuit with some fruit or carrots.
  • “Make sure that you keep your water/fluid intake up. Steer clear of high calorie or high fat drinks.
  • “Focus on what you’re eating, so that you really taste it. You can even do this when you’re watching TV. Don’t snack mindlessly.
  • “Choose snacks that take a bit of time to eat. Nuts in their shells are good, because you have to crack the shell and get the edible part of the nut out. Wrapping a dozen sultanas or raisins in silver foil works too – it takes time to get to the food, and makes you more aware of that you’re eating.

What happens if you fall off the healthy snacking wagon?

“Start again from that very moment,” says Dr Jane McCartney. “Don’t feel bad about yourself, or beat yourself up, because that will only make things worse.”

Changing eating habits takes time and commitment, and it’s different for everyone.

Give yourself time to think about what happened on days that didn’t go well. What else was going on in your life? Had you argued with someone, had bad news, felt bored or disappointed?

Keeping a diary can help. Just jot down what happened that day, how you felt, or what you did, with a note about your snacking – and eating – habits, and you should see the connections.

“Once you start noticing that what’s going on in your life affects your eating habits, you’ll find it much easier to stop it happening next time,” says Dr Jane McCartney.

Dr Jane McCartney is the author of ‘Stop Overeating: The 28 Day Plan to Stop Emotional Eating’, her website is www.stopovereating.co.uk
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.