Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Making sense of snacks
Posted By Guest Blogger On May 25, 2011
The M&M bowl in the office posed a challenge to our two testers, Tonya and Helen, as they worked to take control of their snacking habits in Week 5 of Harvard’s 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.
Week 5 of the plan makes it clear that uncontrolled snacking can be the enemy of any healthy eating routine. “Sneaky snack calories” are casual and unplanned. I kept a daily snacking diary and found out that while I don’t snack often, I snack poorly. From the community bowl of M&Ms in the office to the secret stash of mini Snickers bars in my top desk drawer, I’m a bigger snacker than I’d like to admit. When I get home from work, I often have a bowl of cereal to hold me over until dinner. Since I think of these as “small snacks,” I tend to overlook them when I tally my daily calorie count. That had to change.
Snacking Strategies. Through the first four weeks of following the 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating, I conquered breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I will not let snacks be my demise! I changed my mid-morning snack from mini-snickers to low-fat yogurt. (The 6-Week Plan suggests non-fat yogurt with berries, but I need more flavor in my yogurt.) And now when I hear someone dipping into the community M&M bowl at work, I grab my water bottle instead of mindlessly gravitating to the candy. At home, I munch on walnuts and dried cranberries if I get hungry before dinner. I guess I have to disclose the bag of Doritos next to my microwave. But wait, it’s not a bad as you think. My trick is to take out two chips, seal the bag with my food saver, and wait until I’m in the next room before I enjoy my treat. At this rate it will take me a month to eat the entire bag, so let’s just pretend I didn’t mention it! See you next week for the wrap-up.
I’ve never been a big snacker. Uh-oh, wait a minute, I think I just fibbed. When I thought about snacks in the past, my concept was of “old-fashioned, sit-down snacks” aka milk and cookies after school. Under that definition, I’m not a snacker. Then I started thinking back to my eating patterns before I embarked on the 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating. I realized I was eating mindlessly—a handful of this as I prepared food; a swipe from the candy bowl at work as I walked past. I was eating because the food was there, not because I was hungry. So I used the advice in the 6-Week Plan to make some rules for myself:
How much is a handful? As part of the planning process, the first thing to go was the concept of “handful,” as in a handful of nuts. By definition, a snack is a small meal. To make sure my snacks were small, I bought plastic snack bags from the grocery store. The smaller size helped me make sure portions were kept under control. It’s hard to cram too many nuts into a snack bag. I cut up some carrots and celery sticks too! Boy, did I feel virtuous as I chopped my veggies. Finally, I stocked up on some plain non-fat yogurt. I added some berries and had a filling snack that also helped make sure I’m getting enough fruit in my diet.
Now if the folks at work would lock up the peanut M&Ms and hide the key, I’d be on my way to full-time healthy snacking.
Join the fun and learn to eat healthfully with the Harvard Medical School Six-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.
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