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 [email protected]

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. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  2. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American


    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

  3. Fred Ridley on the Road to Augusta


    Last week, I sat down with Fred Ridley, the new chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. Ridley, a lawyer who has resided in Tampa since 1981, was the 1975 U.S. Amateur champion and is the only Chairman to have played in the Masters. I wrote a long story on Ridley, but here are some of the other …

    Fred Ridley, looks on during the Green Jacket Ceremony during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament in April at Augusta National Golf Club.
  4. Tampa police link two shootings, tell Seminole Heights residents to avoid walking alone


    TAMPA — One was a 22-year-old African American man. The other was a 32-year-old white woman.

    A small memorial sits in the grassy lot on East Orleans Avenue in Seminole Heights where 32-year-old Monica Hoffa's body was found Friday. Hoffa had been shot to death, and Tampa police say they believe her killing is related to the shooting death of Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, at a bus stop near N 15th Street and E Frierson Avenue on Oct. 9. There are no clear motives, however, and police have asked to residents to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and avoid traveling alone at night. JONATHAN CAPRIEL/Times staff
  5. Pinellas Sheriff deputies T. Festa, left, and J. Short, righ,t arrest suspect Christopher Parsells, Pinellas Park, early Tuesday as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]