December 7, 2011

Hunger or Habit?

Many of the people I have worked with over the years have one common challenge among them; late night munchies. Who doesn't get the late night munchies at one point or another? The challenge comes when we are craving something sweet or salty and it just so happens we know where we can get our hands on a nice bag of chips or chocolate.  Once we get to this point, all hope is lost as we make deals with ourselves and talk ourselves into moving towards said stash.

The reality of the late night munchies are two fold; you are either truly hungry or in the habit of eating at that time of night (perhaps due to extreme boredom or sitting in front of the TV). At any rate, if weight loss is a goal of yours, a plan must be created to effectively overcome this very challenging barrier.

The first step in making a change is evaluating the reason behind the munchies. If it is hunger, I suggest you examine what you have for dinner and make the changes tomorrow night.  If you just ate a plate of pasta with sauce, there's no doubt you will be hungry later. If you combine some protein (lentils, meat, legumes, soy) with some whole grain and lotsa veggies (reader beware: I am soooo not a nutritionist, but do understand the basics of it...I'm just sayin' in case there is some nutritionist reading this and yelling at me). 

At any rate, it is what you choose to eat for dinner that may influence your hunger later on. On the other hand, if you aren't really hungry why are you craving that evening snack? That's the question. My suggestion at that point is to pull out your journal or a piece of paper and write down some thoughts about this. What would happen if you kept yourself occupied? What if you read a book or went for a walk? How can you break this habit of late night eating? It's completely do'able; it just takes time and some personal introspection.

So...what if you are hungry and need a snack? I have listed a few great snack ideas below that won't load on the extra calories but will (hopefully) curb your cravings.

For the Sweet "Craver"...

I have taken this directly from "Beth's Journey" blog and highly recommend you visit her for more healthy (and very fun) recipes. This is obviously completely easy to do and would serve as a healthy night time snack.  You could use any nut butter, but I believe this is peanut (if you have yet to try almond butter...I highly recommend it).  Click here for more information on Beth's blog...

Here's another option using a banana (but any fruit could work).  You could also substitute the chocolate spread for nut butter (but who the hell would do that???) You could use Nutella or something equivalent. Just be sure your spread is thin and only for that hint of chocolate. If you are like me and have no self control around chocolate spread....just move on...there's nothing to see here.

I may be pushing my luck with this one, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying a few pieces of really good chocolate combined with a few nuts or strawberries. Get the good stuff and place about two squares (as long as they aren't big ones) on a plate with your choice of fruit and a few nuts. Again, no chocolate willpower....keep scrolling down.

I realize I have a theme going here, but stay with me. Strawberries or any fruit with a dip or tiny spread of something (in this case chocolate) is also a fine snack option. The key is good chocolate or whole ingredients and to limit portion size. Three to four of these would be fine...the entire bowl; not a great idea (if you are trying to loose a few).

This is also a great idea, but I would suggest using a smaller cup or bowl.  Try one tablespoon natural yogurt, a layer of fruit, perhaps a small sprinkle of cereal or oats (granola is loaded with calories and fat so to stay with our theme of lower calories at night...I'd suggest a sprinkle of whole oats - like what you use in oatmeal). Then add a small dollop (love that word...that and drizzle) of yogurt to top it up.

This one has to be my favorite. One piece of toast (whole grain, "squirrel" bread, or something that is going to give you some good stuff - not "brown" bread or white) warmed or baked apple slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon! Wow. Brilliant!

This comes from a website (here's the direct link to this recipe)... . It takes literally 10 minutes to prep and a few to refrigerate, but if you plan ahead, you could be enjoying small bars of this for your evening snack. It's a great pre or post exercise snack also. I have already made this one and love it!  Just be careful of your serving size. I would suggest no larger than a business card.

For the Salty Craver...

Edemame beans in the pod are the very best snack ever! They are uber healthy, easy to prepare, and with a little sea salt sprinkled on top will satisfy the more hard core munchier (hey..look at me...I just made up a new word).  It's important to note that the consistency of a soy bean is that of butter...need I say more?

This is a good one too. You can bake your own tortilla chips (triangle one tortilla, place on baking sheet, spritz with oil and bake for about 5-10 minutes under 400 heat). Then you can add any veggie you want. Remember...serving size is key. The pic here shows what you dinner could look like (not a snack).  Watch those tortillas too; one tortilla can run up as much as 200 calories!

Of course, there's always popcorn. Did you know you can make microwave popcorn by simply placing 3/4 cup kernels in a brown paper bag and sticking it in the micro (pressing the popcorn button)? If you want to add some flavor, you may have to spritz on some oil to make the salt stick, but's worth it!

Finally, another option would be finding a healthy (and whole foods) cracker if possible.  place one tomato slice on it with a sprinkle of skim milk mozza and whatever else you want. Place under broil for a minute or so and you have a little, tiny mini-pizza thing happenin'.  You could also spread a pesto or whatever under the tomato, but to keep the cals low, it's a suggestion to leave it out.  Remember just a few is enough for a late night snack.

The most important message here is the awareness of what is eating out of habit and what is hunger.  We tend to be emotional eaters (especially at night when our activity may be low).  However, if you are hungry and need a little something, I hope the above helps. Serving size is the key!

Have a great day!

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