Losing Weight: Snacking

Snacking is a national epidemic. Research published in June 2010 suggested that nine out of 10 British adults snack between meals and half do so daily. Curbing your snacking - or at least finding healthy alternatives - is crucial to weight-loss.

If you notice that your early morning or lunchtime runs are causing hunger pangs throughout the day, it might be time to reconsider your refuelling strategy. Our panel of five weight-loss runners reveal how they discovered healthy treats to help reap the rewards of their training.

Hunger or thirst?

Many people confuse dehydration with hunger. So often instead of reaching for the biscuit tin between meals, a cool glass of water could often do the trick. All of our five weight-loss runners made sure they kept hydrated throughout the day and noticed this played a big part in controlling their appetite.

"Whenever I felt hungry I'd have a drink instead and then wait for a while. If I still felt hungry then I'd eat," explains Desi R who lost five stone last year. Simon Lynch experienced a similar phenomenon: "I noticed drinking plenty of water between meals suppressed my appetite."

It's recommended adults drink six to eight glasses a day - add a few extra glasses if you run that day, because of water-loss through sweat.

Healthy alternatives

If water doesn't do the trick and that hunger pang can't be ignored, then all is not lost. "There are loads of healthy and tasty snacks out there!" says sports nutritionist Trevor Bedding (www.sportsnutritionist.co.uk). He advises the calorie-conscious to opt for low fat options including smoothies, fruit, rice cakes, carrots dipped in hummus, rice pudding, salad or dried fruit.

Experiment and discover which healthy foods you most enjoy. Kirsten Lodge managed to overcome her sweet tooth and lose 15 pounds with her own snack-based discovery. "I found eating fruit toast with just a scrape of ricotta or cream cheese was perfect when I needed a sugar fix or as a pre-training snack," she explains.

Another good idea is to plan ahead, as it's always much easier to buy unhealthy snacks when they appear the only option. "I make sure I always have apples and satsumas ready to eat in my bag," explains icclesuez.

If you eat healthily most of the time, don't feel too bad about an occasional treat - you can even try making your own healthier version of the original.  "I make my own flapjacks. It might not be the healthiest option but I'm sure it's still better for me than shop-bought ones," adds Lynch.

Mind over matter

Just because you have switched to a healthier diet, it doesn't mean your work colleagues, friends or family have as well. When cakes get brought into the office every Friday or if your children insist on eating crisps, then temptation will strike from time to time. This is when mental strength and learning to say No is important.

"I work in a coffee shop where I am surrounded by delicious muffins and cakes. I can't help but feel tempted occasionally," explains Desi R, "Whenever I do I think to myself, Is this worth it? When I have spent so much time and effort losing weight, do I really want to ruin it in a moment of weakness? That process stops me right in my tracks."

Avoiding snacks at the office can be tricky, but seeing them in your fridge or cupboards at home can be even tougher. "If you have to keep unhealthy treats at home because of the family, then keep a note on the fridge, tin or cupboard door showing your progress - or a photo of how you don't want to look!" advises Bedding.

Learning to say no will get easier once you establish a new eating routine but at the start it will be tricky to change long-running food routines. "You don't need chocolate after a meal or a biscuit with your cup of tea. Identify these bad habits and try to find a healthier alternative," says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at The Nutri Centre (www.nutricentre.com).

Post-run snacks

If you run for more than an hour or have a particularly intense session, then a snack immediately afterwards that is high in carbohydrates and protein can boost your recovery and stop your appetite ballooning later in the day. "You can reward yourself after your run but make sure it doesn't involve eating junk food as that will undo all your hard work," says Wilkinson.

Good post-run snacks include wholegrain cereals with milk, a tuna sandwich, eggs on toast or fruit smoothies. Discover the best fuelling strategies for both before and after training.