Food Q&A: Snack Attack

How can I curb my after-dinner snacking?

Need ideas for coping with restaurant buffets? Want some good snack ideas? In our Q&A series, nutritionist and food editor Leslie Fink, MS, RD, answers questions about food, nutrition and weight loss.

Q: After dinner, I find myself eating leftovers, pudding, or popcorn. Is there a way I can curb this after-dinner snacking?

A: Some people seem prone to nighttime nibbling when they cut back too much on their evening meal or eat too little throughout the day. It's important therefore to determine whether or not you leave the dinner table feeling full. If the answer is "no," try adding a bit more substance to your supper.

Round out your dinner with low-calorie foods that are loaded with fiber, such as vegetables, beans or fruit. Consider opting for starches that are higher in fiber, such as brown rice instead of white rice or yams instead of regular potatoes.

You should also consider the total nutrient composition of your meal. If your dinner primarily consists of quickly absorbed carbohydrates (pasta with marinara sauce, for example), you're not giving your body much long-lasting energy to run on. The inclusion of longer-lasting energy sources like lean protein (chicken, shrimp, tofu) and healthy fats (a few nuts, a splash of olive or canola oil, a sprinkling of low-fat or non-fat cheese) should tide you over better for the long term.

If you've already added grilled shrimp, steamed broccoli and a touch of part-skim or fat-free mozzarella cheese to your pasta but you end up nibbling all night long anyway, ask yourself if after dinner snacking is simply a matter of habit. Perhaps you're bored, tired or finally relaxing for the first time all day. The next time these feelings surface, try to be more aware of what might be driving your urge to eat. Try keeping yourself (and your hands) busy by reading a book, taking a candle-lit bath, knitting or painting instead of snacking.

Because discovering which foods you're prone to overeat can be a gradual process, it's important to find some calorie-friendly substitutes to hold you over in the interim. Grape tomatoes, frozen seedless grapes, baby carrots dipped into salsa or black bean dip, vegetable soup and light microwave popcorn are all great options.

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