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The Smart Way to Snack

Custom-fit your snacks to your needs and schedule.

Smart Snacks on a Diet

When you are cutting calories. Even adolescents can read labels, Higgins says. Popcorn, pretzels, or baked chips can be a good snack -- in moderation. Put the rest away on a high shelf. Cut-up veggies also make you work hard to chew and are satisfying. Cross recommends rice cakes with a little wake-up of peanut butter or cheese. "You are less likely to be hungry an hour later," she says.

During TV time. "I am not in favor of eating while watching TV," Cross says. "Have you ever watched someone eat while the TV is on? They are not tasting anything. They just need an activity to do while staring, and eating has become popular."

When out with friends. Sometimes it's also popular to "go for dessert" or grab a snack with your buddies. Cross recommends splitting a dessert. "If you get ice cream or To Die for Chocolate Torte, get one scoop or divide it," she says. "The real reason for going out is to be with your date or friends -- not the food."

At the movies. The movies are an example of an activity tied to food rather than time of day. "Why is this?" Duyff asks. "When we sit at the computer, we need a beverage. When we go to the movies, we need popcorn. We need to change our mindset."

Before partying. "It's an urban myth that you can coat your stomach with milk before drinking," laughs Duyff. "If there is going to be a lot of food, she adds, you may concentrate on eating rather than being with your friends and socializing. In that case, it might be better to have a snack beforehand to take the edge off. A cracker and cheese or those little carrots are good choices." (Remember, Duyff says, half a bottle of wine can contain up to 500 calories. In fact, Cross recommends drinking an equal amount of water after every drink.)

On the airplane. Call ahead and see if food is being provided, Cross advises. If not, bring a sandwich on board. Nothing salty or your feet might swell. "Coffee or another diuretic may mean more trips to the bathroom," Cross adds. "Water is good. And make it a juicy sandwich, with tomatoes."

Before bed. People who eat dinner early may get hungry at bed time. Milk contains tryptophan, which makes some people sleepy. On the flip side, Duyff says, chocolate ice cream may be a little buzzy and keep you awake. Chai tea can be soothing, Cross says. Eating too much and lying down causes heartburn in some people, so beware.

When traveling. Wise travelers bring packaged peanut butter crackers or other familiar little noshes, such as self-opening cans of tuna, in case restaurants are closed (forget those mini-bars).

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