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Don't Toss Out Your Snacks!

Although there are many sweet reasons many people find themselves unable to lose weight, CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay suggests how people can have their cake and eat it, too, in her monthlong series, The Great American Weight Loss.

Excuse of the Day: I need my snacks.

If some snacks are too good to live without, go ahead and have them, says nutritionist Cathy Nonas of Saint-Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. A person can still maintain a healthy weight, Nonas says, as long as he or she limits their snack intake - for example, eating only one candy bar - and doesn't eat these kinds of foods every day.

Although the ideal healthy snack may be fresh fruits and vegetables, the average person may still crave sweet or salty foods that can be high in calories and fat.

One of the biggest mistakes dieters make, Nonas says, is trying to eat low-fat treats instead of the high-fat ones they really want. When they do that, people usually eat so many low-fat treats that they add up - in calories. Eventually, frustrated dieters lapse back to eating the high-fat foods they want all the time.

Even if a person maintains their current weight without gaining any extra pounds, the attempt to eat things they don't enjoy, just to cut down calories, has proved to be a useless exercise. They may as well have eaten what they craved, Nonas says.

One rule to getting the craving under control is to take note of what prompts the need for a snack. Nonas says that people tend engage in "mindless eating." They continuously eat between meals, especially when they are idle or bored. Then they lose track of how much, or what they have consumed over time.

"I used to snack continually," says Bob Tomlin, who has been following The Great American Weight Loss. "I'd be sitting at my desk or I'd be sitting in front of my television set. And I had to have something to reach for to put into my mouth. I'd take a whole bag of pretzels and eat them until they were gone."

The Great American Weight Loss Tip of the Day is: Only eat a single portion of your favorite snack.

Nonas says the first step in allowing yourself treats is to gauge whether you are actually hungry. If not, try some other activity like walking, calling a friend on the phone - anything to get past the feeling. If you notice that you crave something at the same time of day, you could be eating your daily meals at the wrong time.

If you have decided you are hungry, make snacktime worth your while. Consider a single serving of a delicious fruit. Or, think about a single serving of one type of treat such as:

  • A small bowl of cereal with milk
  • a box of raisins
  • cookies
  • a candy bar
  • ie cream
  • slice of cake
  • small bag of pretzels or chips
After you've chosen your snack, do nothing else but enjoy it. Instead of working or watching TV, concentrate on the experience of eating.

Reported by Dr. Emily Senay