Between-meal Nibbling

Snacking can be your secret weapon for weight control, but you must replace those high carb, low-nutrition snacks with better choices.

Snack foods. They’re high in calories, full of empty carbs and practically devoid of nutrition. Americans love them so much that today they get about 25 percent of their daily calories from junk food such as potato chips. On Super Bowl Sunday alone, according to the Snack Food Association, Americans consumed more than 12 million pounds of potato chips; they also ate more than 9 million pounds of tortilla chips and some 4 million pounds of popcorn.

Sweet snacks are just as popular. According to the National Confectioners Association and Chocolate Manufacturers Association, in 2001 Americans ate a total of 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate. And the Snack Food Association says that snacking has increased by more than a third since 1988; sales of snacks of all sorts now top $30 billion a year. Is it any wonder that well over half of all American adults are now overweight, as are nearly a third of all kids?

Such snack foods are basically nothing but empty carbohydrates of the worst kind. They’re made from inexpensive, highly refined ingredients such as white flour, corn meal, corn syrup and white sugar. Even worse, they’re high in trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), a dangerous substance that is a major culprit behind clogged arteries.

All those snack foods are so heavily advertised and sold virtually everywhere that resisting them can be very difficult. Here are some strategies for fighting back:

Know your enemy. If you’re aware of how bad these foods are for you, you’re better able to resist them. “Bad” carbs are full of dangerous trans fats, artificial flavorings and preservatives. Read the ingredients label—it’s enough to make you never touch the stuff.

* Purge your pantry. If junk foods aren’t there, you can’t eat them. Your kids might complain, but junk food is no better for them than it is for you—and if you set the example, they’ll find it easier to follow.

* Avoid certain aisles. Most of the snack foods are concentrated in the very supermarket aisles an Atkins follower should not be in. Also stay away from the food displays at the checkout by choosing the “no snack” counter if there is one.

Making Better Choices

Giving up high carb snack foods is not the same thing as never eating between meals. In fact, snacking can help you avoid getting so hungry that you pig out at your next meal.

There’s no shortage of enjoyable and convenient low carb choices. String cheese sticks or single-portion cheese rounds are handy and delicious. For a convenient and satisfying hot snack, try low carb instant soup. Jerky strips and other meat snacks are good choices, but read the labels carefully to avoid added carbs.

If crunch is what you crave, try crispbreads, low carb soy chips or celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter. And for crunch, flavor and good health, a handful of nuts after you have completed the first two weeks of Induction is an outstanding option.

With a wide variety of flavors to choose from, an Atkins Bar can satisfy your sweet tooth. If you crave chocolate (who doesn’t?), another option is an Atkins Advantage Chocolate Delight Shake, and once you’re past Induction, you can enjoy an Atkins Endulge Caramel Nut Chew.

Berries with cream are a great snack choice you can enjoy in phases 2-4. As your carb intake increases, typically by Pre-Maintenance, you can also snack on grapefruit, kiwis, cherries, apples and melons, preferably with some nuts or cheese. For a fun snack on a hot day, have some frozen grapes or ice pops made with artificially sweetened homemade lemonade.

Giving In

Once you’ve reached Lifetime Maintenance, you may be able to occasionally give in to your yen for snack food. If you absolutely must have something like potato chips, however, keep the damage to a minimum and get a brand without trans fats. Buy the smallest possible package. Don’t be suckered by the bargain price on the super-super-size bag—you’ll likely end up eating it all. And along with your snack food treat, have something more nutritious and lower in carbs—a piece of cheese with those whole-wheat pretzels, for instance. The combination will fill you up far faster than the pretzels alone, and you’ll be satisfied by a smaller amount.

Go Nuts for Nuts

For an excellent low carb, high-nutrition snack once you reach the OWL phase, have a handful of nuts: Not only are they delicious and satisfying, nuts are an excellent source of good dietary fat, minerals and fiber. Just 1 ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts), for example, contains over 9 grams of monounsaturated fat, 3 grams of fiber and goodly amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. All that nutrition comes with over 5 grams of protein and just under 3 grams of Net Carbs.

It’s the monounsaturated fat in nuts that makes them so good for your health. Results from Harvard’s long-running Nurses’ Health Study have shown that the women who ate the most nuts had the least heart disease. Just a couple of ounces each day makes for a very satisfying snack and gives you a heart-healthy dose.

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