You’ve probably heard about mindless eating, where you down handfuls of chips or candy without even noticing. The reason it’s so dangerous is that even if you track your calories daily and make healthy meals, you’re less likely to record (or even remember!) eating that handful of nuts during your favorite show or the mini chocolate bar you grabbed when walking by the reception desk. But even though you didn’t register the calories, they still count–and could be why you can’t drop those five extra pounds.
This month is prime time for mindless munching. Who can go to a party without tossing down bites of buffalo cheese dip, sour cream and onion chips, and meatballs? But you can cut way down on the unhealthy habit by just being aware of the damage that can happen in just a few bites. Here’s the fatty truth behind nine common snacking culprits:
- Handful of chips – A triple threat, potato chips are high in fat, calories and sodium. Plus, it’s impossible to eat just one. About 12 chips clocks in at 150 calories.
- Half a doughnut – Even if you only nibble on half of one, you’re still indulging in a sugar-packed sweet that’s packed with trans fats and adding about 100 calories to your daily total.
- Handful of M&M’s – About half a pack of these candies adds up to 100 calories—and who can resist going back for 2nd (or 3rd!) helpings.
- Dried fruit – While it may be a better option than candy, dried fruit has a lot of sugar and calories in a very small amount, meaning it’s easy to go overboard. A handful of dried blueberries, for example, has 150 calories.
- Half a plate of chips and guacamole – Although this snack has heart-healthy avocados, it’s often served with salty, fried tortilla chips. Once you get caught up in the deliciousness of the dip, you may chow down up to 360 calories.
- Stack of cheese and crackers – Another example of something you can’t have just one of, cheddar cheese slices and crackers seem harmless, but can add up quickly. In just six you’re close to 200 calories.
- Handful of pretzels – A small amount of this seemingly healthy snack could add up to more than 270 empty calories.
- One chocolate chip cookie – ‘Tis the season for cartons of cookies to start piling up in the office kitchen, giving you easy access to them all day long. For each small one you grab, you’re consuming at least 60 sugar-filled calories.
- Can of diet soda – You may think this is a good snack option because it has zero calories, but diet soda is believed to activate the craving centers in your brain, making you hungrier.
Even if you only nibble on half of these snacks, you can add nearly 1,500 extra calories to your day. That’s two Big Macs and an order of large fries!
Fight back with these three simple strategies to curb grazing:
- Step away from the food. Pick a seat far from the doughnuts and chat with your grandma in the living room instead of the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Get out and get moving. Even if it’s a typical Michigan winter with six inches of snow on the ground, you can still take a walk around the block. It isn’t just exercise—you’re also building in a pause from eating to register that you aren’t hungry.
- Use a smaller plate. Research shows we eat about 92 percent of what we put on our plate – so if you keep the plate smaller at a party, your portions will be too. And make a rule never to eat straight from the bag or buffet — plate all of your food first and walk away to eat it.
Photo credit: nateswartphoto