Are You a Nibbler? Curbing Empty Calories

By Martin Brown

woman snackingIf you’re one of the very few of us who can finish a meal and not have the desire to nibble, and nibble some more afterward. Than this article is not for you. And if you’re one of those rare individuals who has no impulse to have a mid-morning nosh, or a mid-afternoon snack, consider yourself fortunate and forget about what I have to say on this subject.

But, if you’re like me, and nine out of every ten people you know, chances are you like to snack, nosh, nibble, dare I say graze.

It’s okay. I’ve been a grazer for as long as I can remember. The real question is not whether we like to snack, but how we can beat — or at least tame —  the nibbler inside of us.

In many ways we intuitively know our bodies. We may not stop to think about what we are doing, eating, exercising and so on, but we know when we’re off track in controlling our caloric intake, and we know as well, when we are doing a good job.

Like most people I’m not going to eat a really huge meal, so the added calories are not coming from my three meals a day. But I do love to graze and oddly enough for me this instinct hits me hardest after lunch and dinner. That is not to say that I’m not smitten with the 11 AM urge to nibble or the 3 to 4 PM munchies.

But my weakest point of the day is after finishing a healthy dinner: I have a hard time shutting off the gobble instinct. And so I find myself grazing on silly things: a couple of handfuls of cashews, chips, crackers, dry cereal, and or cookies, if I’m dumb enough to have cookies in the house. Amazingly, I mindlessly go from one snack to another until my higher instinct shouts, “Enough!”

In my case, and true of many others, this is the principle source of what I call, weight creep: A phenomenon by which your weight slowly creeps upward half a pound per week.

There is a relatively easy method to beat grazing. Like most other things diet related plans, however, it comes with a modest amount of advanced planning:

Tip #1. First and foremost, keep those grazing foods on out of the house. Sounds like such a simple idea it leaves you wondering, “Why didn’t I think of this before?” I can’t tell you how many people have asked my advice on dieting, and when I go to their pantry I find it loaded with everything from cheese nibblers, to corn chips, to cookies. It’s simple; we graze on what’s in the house.

Getting into the car and going to the supermarket to pickup snacks is too overt an act and we simply won’t, and most often, don’t do it. It’s almost like we play this mental game in which we convince ourselves that calories in our own cabinets won’t hurt.

Tip #2. Create a “circuit breaker.” This would be a low-cal snack that gives you that feeling of being satisfied. For me,he circuit breaker with which I’ve had my greatest luck is sugarless gum. Something about the act of chewing satisfies that urge to graze and after a few minutes I’m satisfied and I won’t reach for anything else. Other simple remedies, such as a piece of candy, or sipping on a cold or hot drink.

Tip #3. Don’t forget: Calories In, Calories Out. We all like to forget about one simple, very well known, truth. Calories in, means added weigh on.

The shortest distance between you and weight gain is the distance between your hand and your mouth. Resist and trick that nibbler in you and you’re well on the way to not just reaching, but to maintaining, your ideal weight.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.