Follow the yellow brick… snack craving?

Kelly Burgess

It’s no secret that late-night snack attacks sneak up as quickly as Homecoming week sneaks up after fall break. Homecoming week might feel a little bit like Dorothy’s twister with fun activities spiraling out of control. Between decorating, spirit competitions, parades, football and more, you may be left feeling exhilarated, enthusiastic or famished. Whether you are “pomping” until 3 a.m. or studying for midterms at midnight, you are bound to experience a late-night craving at some point this week!

When the craving hits, what are you to do? Follow it right down the yellow brick road all the way to Oz or stop and think if maybe there is another path? Check out these facts, myths and tips about how to follow your snack craving the healthy way!

First of all, snacking is a beautiful thing! One myth that often creates enemies of snacking is that eating late at night causes you to gain weight. This general statement is simply not true. Eating more calories than your body needs causes weight gain. The time of day is most likely not the culprit. However, what you are eating may be the problem. From personal experience, late at night is when my most insatiable sweet tooth emerges. It is so hard to say no to milkshakes, donuts and other sweets late at night when my willpower is gone. Eating these kinds of “snacks” late in the evening (or the wee hours of the morning) might, in fact, cause you to pack on some pounds.

What is the alternative? Registered Dietitian Jill Castle recommends redefining the “snack.” She suggests treating snacks as mini-meals instead of opportunities to indulge on sugary sodas, candy, cookies and processed foods. Thinking of snacks as smaller versions of meals reminds you to include nutritious components such as fiber and protein. Not only do these improve the nutritional value of your snack, but they also increase the time that your snack craving will be satisfied.

Fall is the perfect time for one of my favorite snacks – homemade trail mix. The benefits of this snack are nearly unlimited! It is easy to make a batch and then grab and go. Also, it is entirely customizable to your preferences! Nuts are an excellent source of protein and an easy addition to trail mix. You can add fiber by using whole grain cereals, pretzels or popcorn as a base. Dried fruits such as raisins, “craisins” or dried bananas add a touch of sweetness and adding a few chocolate chips, M&Ms or pieces of candy corn can add just the right amount of fun.

There are so many snack options that include healthy combinations of both protein and carbohydrates. Fruit and low-fat yogurt with granola can be a sweet alternative to a fat-laden ice cream or shake. If you are more of a salty type, try baked corn chips with salsa. Raw celery with peanut butter or carrots and hummus provide a crunch that will last by including veggies and incorporating healthy protein at the same time.

Homecoming says, “There’s no place like home,” but I say there’s nothing like a healthy snack!