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 Snacks & Overeating 
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Additional Resources

Snacks & Overeating - Tuesday, March 25, 2008There are obvious reasons that we snack. We're hungry. We need a little something to hold us over until dinner. We crave a little something salty or sweet, and that movie isn't quite what it could be without a bag of popcorn and a soda. But it's also easy to overdo it.

Our brain tells us when we've had enough to eat, right? Or is it our stomach? Truth is, how much we eat is influenced by many factors. Some have nothing to do with our bodies.

For example, the choice of container: the larger the bag, box, or bowl, the more that gets eaten. In one study, researchers gave popcorn to moviegoers in large and medium-sized buckets. Subjects ate 45% more popcorn when it was in the bigger container. Even when the popcorn was stale (two weeks old) they still ate 1/3 more popcorn when it was in the large tub.

In another study, researchers showed how we use our eyes to count calories rather than our stomachs. They rigged a bowl of soup so that it would always stay half full. Subjects using this "bottomless" bowl ate an average of 73% more than those using a normal bowl.

Even nutrition experts can be fooled, as shown in a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. They served themselves significantly more ice cream, without realizing it, when they used larger bowls or bigger scooping spoons.

Avoid snacking out of boredom, and opt for fruits and vegetables as snacks whenever possible.

  • J Nutr Educ Behav, 2005 Sep-Oct;37(5):242-5
  • Obes Res, 2005 Jan;13(1):93-100
  • Am J Prev Med, 2006 Sep;31(3):240-3

Include fruits and vegetables as daily snacks:
Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet. They provide vitamins, fiber, and a variety of healthy phytochemicals. It is recommended that all Americans eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday for good health. In fact, current recommendations encourage adults to strive for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. In general, one serving size of fruit (one fruit exchange) contains approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates and 60 calories. A fruit exchange is a small piece of fresh fruit, a half a cup of canned fruit, or a quarter cup of dried fruit. An example would be a small apple, small orange, or half of a banana. Three-quarters of a cup of blackberries or blueberries, a dozen fresh cherries, or approximately 17 small grapes are also one serving of fruit. A typical serving of vegetables is approximately ½ cup and contains 2 grams protein, 5 g carbohydrates, and approximately 25-30 calories.

For more about fruits and vegetables, please see the following links:

Besides being an important part of a balanced diet, fruits and vegetables can be a wise snacking option and provide a quick pick-me-up. Keeping a banana, an orange, or another piece of fruit handy allows you to have a healthy snack when you need it. Diced carrots are also a handy finger food to have available. A small bag of trail mix provides fiber and energy, but dried fruits and nuts are concentrated sources of calories, so watch portion sizes. Both kids and adults often enjoy the taste and texture of frozen grapes. Most grocery stores now offer pre-washed, pre-cut fruits and vegetables in snacking containers or bags. Mixing fruits with yogurt is a good way to obtain calcium, vitamin D, and protein from the yogurt, as well as fiber, beneficial phytochemicals, and vitamins from the fruit. Non-fat sour cream with vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, may also be to your liking. Reduced fat peanut butter and apple slices make a good combination.

Having 1-2 snacks daily keeps the body's metabolism going. A snack of about 150-200 calories keeps hunger pains at bay, maintains your energy levels, and helps prevent overeating at mealtime.

This site gives a variety of snacking suggestions:

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