Master your Cravings

We've got tips to keep you on track, any time of day.

Some people find the prime-time television hours the hardest on their weight-loss plan; others say midnight's the worst. Still others fall off-track mid-afternoon. And for a smaller group, right after breakfast is the most difficult time to stay away from snacks.

Whichever your "weak" time is, we can help. We asked Kimberly Glenn, MS, RD, LD, of Northside Hospital's weight-reduction clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, for some time-tested advice.

Morning Munchies

Member Helen says: I eat breakfast each morning (I know you aren't supposed to skip meals), but struggle thereafter. I always crave something sweet. It's a vicious cycle.

Glenn says: First things first, start out with a healthy breakfast; you can do it on the run. Make sure you include protein and fibre — without them, you'll get hungry quicker. Try:

High-fibre cereal, milk, and fruit.

Packets of oatmeal, made with milk.

If you eat breakfast at 7 a.m. and feel hungry again at 10, don't be distressed. If you're on a good schedule, you should feel hungry every three or four hours. Have a healthy snack, maybe a piece of fruit, just to tide you over. And if it's going to be a long time until your next meal, include protein in your snack — maybe a protein bar.

Afternoon Appetite

Member Elaine says: As soon as I hit the door at home, my hunger pangs go wild! I have to have something to curb my appetite until dinner is ready. Usually I make smart choices, but sometimes I fall into the "ugh" mode.

Glenn says: Most people have a hard time at this time of day. A lot of people eat lunch between 11 and 1 and dinner at 6, so a snack in between makes sense. Try:

Yogourt and cereal

Cottage cheese and fruit

Avoid sugary, empty-calorie foods. If you eat things like that, you'll still be hungry and you may overeat later. An afternoon snack should give you energy and keep you full until dinner.

Evening Grazing

Member Jamie says: After I've had my three sensible meals during my busy day, [during the evenings] I simply want to relax at home and snack. It's so easy to "throw in the towel" after behaving well all day.

Glenn says: Where are you eating when you eat at this time? Do you have a favorite chair that you eat and watch TV in? When you're in a "comfort" place like that, you're likely to lose track of the quantity you take in. The first step is to try to not eat in your "happy place," but if you really want to, have a set snack — don't graze.

Try to stick with snacks that have built-in portion control. Last but not least, enjoy your snack: There's nothing wrong with having one, just so long as you don't go overboard.

Midnight Nibbling

Member Karen says: My worst time is late at night. I have trouble falling asleep, and tend to go in the kitchen and nibble.

What Glenn says: You need to ask yourself, am I really hungry or am I just bored? Am I eating because of stress or an emotional issue? Close the kitchen — make it off-limits until the morning — or limit yourself to sugar-free hot chocolate or hot tea. Have a snack planned for a certain time: Limit yourself to that one snack and see if it satisfies you. (And if you're having a serious problem with insomnia, you might want to discuss it with your doctor.)