Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mind and body

Learn to curb those snack attacks for better weight control

Lavinia Rodriguez

Lavinia Rodriguez

Americans have been getting more obese in recent decades because of two main factors: less movement and more calories. At the same time, snacking between meals has become a big part of the American lifestyle, fueling the second half of the obesity equation.

Snacking can add hundreds of extra calories to your daily intake that you don't even notice, until the evidence turns up on the scale. That's because most people snack mindlessly, regarding both quantity and quality.

Most packaged snack foods are loaded with calories, salt, sugar, fat and other ingredients our bodies can do without. Sure, they're tasty. In fact, they're engineered to taste good so you'll want to eat more. To the manufacturer, profit is the priority, not your health.

Next time you're in the grocery store, notice how much space is devoted to pretzels, chips, sodas, crackers, cookies, pastries and candies. Then note how many of those products you normally throw into your cart as part of your family's diet. How necessary are these products to your health? How much do you spend on them every week or month?

Perhaps you go for snack foods that promise to be better for you? Recently, a national television show featured a nutritionist who showed that even snack foods labeled "low fat," "low sugar" or bearing some other suggestion of health can be far from good for you. A bowl of sweet potato chips, for instance, contained just as much fat, salt and calories as conventional potato chips.

Besides, exceeding your daily calorie needs can cause weight gain no matter if the calories come from foods that are healthy or unhealthy.

Still, snacking isn't all bad. The proper time to snack is when you feel physically hungry and know that if you don't have a snack, you'll be so famished by your next meal that you'll likely overeat or lose control later. At a time like this, it makes total sense to eat, but do it mindfully — thinking about what you're putting into your body, what benefits it will provide and how it will complement the rest of the day's intake.

If you snack more than once per day, snack mindlessly, spend a lot of money on packaged snack foods and are having trouble achieving a healthy weight, you might be a "problem snacker." If so, it's time to look at reducing and changing your snacks. Here are a few tips to accomplish that:

• Make note of how often you snack each day and what foods you usually choose.

• Learn how to read nutrition labels so you can determine if a snack is really healthy.

• Get rid of the most-caloric, least-nutritious snacks from your kitchen and grocery list.

• Just because something isn't usually called a snack food doesn't mean it can't be one. For example, yogurt with fruit and nuts can be eaten as a meal, as part of a meal or as a snack. A portion of last night's healthy meal can be a snack today.

• Eat well-balanced meals so you're less likely to be hungry between meals. The USDA's website,, is an easy way to learn what eating well means. When you satisfy your body's nutritional needs your between-meal cravings will diminish.

• Get busy just before usual snack times. Sometimes we get in the habit of snacking when we're bored, not really hungry. Finding active ways to occupy those times will help you break that habit.

• Eat before your hunger gets out of control.

• Gradually reduce quantities rather than going cold turkey. The mind tends to be more compliant if it perceives that what you want it to do isn't so difficult. So, use small steps to gradually reduce the size and improve the quality of snacks.

Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at

Learn to curb those snack attacks for better weight control 01/21/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 2:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman


    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.