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Published on July 26, 2013

10 Strategies for Healthy Snacking

By Dr. Rachel Zurek, Family Practice Physician, Palos Medical Group

Local Farmers Markets

Shopping local farmers markets is ideal for stocking up om healthy snacks, and it also strengthens your community. For summer’s freshest selections, check out the markets in our area:

Evergreen Park: Yukich Field, 89th and Kedzie Avenue, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, through Oct. 31

Frankfort: Breidert Green Oak & Kansas Street, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 27

Lemont: Stephen & Talcott streets, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, through Oct. 29

Lockport: Central Square at 222 E. 9th St., 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays, through Oct. 14

Mokena: Wolf Road and Front Street, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, through Oct. 26

New Lenox: 1 Veterans Parkway, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, through Oct. 5

Oak Forest: South parking lot of the Central Park Building, 15601 South Central Ave., 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, through Oct. 8

Orland Park: 14700 S. Ravinia, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, through Oct. 4 (No market on Aug. 2)

Palos Heights: 12217 S. Harlem Ave., 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, through Oct. 9

Palos Park: 123rd Street & Forest Glen, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, through Oct. 18

Tinley Park: Metra Station at 173rd Street and Oak Park Avenue, 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays, through Oct. 12

 Posted July 26, 2013

When it comes to weight management, research shows eating small, frequent meals is the best way to keep off excess fat and boost metabolism. This means snacking at least twice daily is actually good for you, if done correctly. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider your snack options.

1. Choose complex carbs over simple carbs.

Simple carbohydrates are present in sugary, processed foods and sodas. In the body, these foods are broken down easily and absorbed quickly. Complex carbs are the opposite. They take longer to digest, which in turn stabilizes blood sugars and helps you feel fuller longer. Complex carbs are predominantly found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, so they also are higher in fiber and nutrients, which can help you get the recommended 25 to 40 grams of fiber you need each day.

2. Eat more protein.

Combining protein with carbs will slow digestion and increase satiety. Protein is important for strong muscles, as well as healthy hair and nails. Soy, lean meats, eggs, nuts and legumes contain large amounts of protein.  For an energizing snack, combine peanut butter with whole grain crackers or veggies with hummus.

3. Sit down to eat, and eat slowly.

Do not allow food in any other rooms except the kitchen and cafeteria at work. Do not eat while standing or driving, and do not keep snacks at your desk. Chew your food slowly and take breaks between each bite. If you feel unsatisfied after a snack, wait at least 10 minutes before you have more food. Often, the craving will go away.

4. Plan healthy, low-calorie snacks ahead of time.

Most people should consume between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day to maintain their current weight, and between 1,400 and 1,600 calories a day to lose weight. This works out to three meals of about 500 calories and two snacks of no more than 200 calories each. To stick to a restricted calorie diet, you need to read food labels and plan accordingly. People who do not plan their meals and snacks ahead of time are much more likely to overeat, or stop at the drive-through.

5. Take your snacks out of the bag and buy measuring cups.

Studies have repeatedly shown people will eat more if they are served a larger portion. You can trick yourself by using smaller plates and bowls, and taking chips out of the bag before eating them. When it comes to eating ice cream, use a measuring cup to determine a one-cup portion instead of eating out of the container.

6. Drink plenty of calorie-free liquids.

Many people mistake thirst for hunger. When you are tempted to snack on something unhealthy, drink an 8-ounce glass of ice water first. This may curb the craving, and your body will actually burn calories to heat up the water internally. The more liquids you drink, the less room in your stomach for food. However, beware of unnecessary calories and artificial sweeteners in beverages. Studies have shown artificial sweeteners such as those found in diet drinks may actually contribute to weight gain. Water is always your best choice. Make sure you read labels!

7. Take a walk.

You are less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks if you are involved in activities that keep you from eating, such as gardening, cleaning or exercising. One study showed that a brisk 15-minute walk can actually fend off a chocolate craving.

8. Don’t snack while distracted.

Eat mindfully and be aware of what you’re consuming. Eating while distracted, multitasking or watching TV can cause you to eat more. Being preoccupied may prevent your brain from recognizing the physical signals of feeling full.

9. Get more sleep and try to reduce stress.

Lack of sleep and excess stress causes the hormone cortisol to be released in higher doses in the body, and cortisol stimulates junk-food cravings. However, after eating sugary foods, your blood sugar will plummet, making you shaky, irritable and hungrier than before.

10. Eat higher volume, lower calorie foods.

Your body is much more sensitive to the volume of the foods you eat than the calories in the food, so it is a good idea to pick snacks that will take up more space in your stomach, like water-filled grapes. Most vegetables also fall into this category.

There are many other tricks you can use to avoid unplanned snacking. For instance, don’t prepare foods while you are hungry, don’t keep unhealthy snacks in the house, and avoid areas at work with junk food and candy. It also is important to recognize your emotional eating triggers and create plans for dealing with temptation. A food diary can help accomplish this since you can record what, when and how much you are eating. Then you can work on overcoming bad patterns.

A key question to ask yourself when tempted to eat something unhealthy is, “Am I hungry enough to eat an apple right now?” If the answer is no, then you are probably not truly hungry and should reconsider your choice. Keep these tips in mind and you can snack healthfully, which not only will help you manage your weight but many health conditions, including diabetes and high cholesterol. Happy snacking is key to healthy living.

Dr. Zurek’s office is located in the Palos Primary Care Center South, 15300 West Avenue, Suite 220S, Orland Park. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Palos Medical Group at (708) 349-0747.