If you're quitting smoking, weight gain is probably one of the things on your mind. It's true that quitting smoking often results in some extra pounds -- a 2012 study published in the "British Medical Journal" found that participants who quit smoking gained an average of about 10 pounds after 12 months, with the majority of that weight gained in the first three months. Quitting may increase your urge to munch, but keeping your snacks practical and healthy can help you keep your weight in check.
Choosing to start a diet when you make the commitment to quit smoking probably isn't the best idea, caution Carolyn Leontos, MS, RD, CDE and David Christy, DrPH. in an article for the University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension. Restricting your food intake and choices too much takes mental and emotional energy that are best spent focusing on quitting in the first few weeks. That doesn't mean you should allow yourself to eat everything in sight, though. Plan for at least two snacks -- one in the midmorning and one in the afternoon before dinner -- to help keep hunger under control so you don't overindulge at meals.
It's easy to overeat if you're pulling handfuls of flavored crackers out of the box or scooping nuts directly from the canister. Even if you weren't the type to go overboard with snacks when you were a smoker, you may find it's harder to control yourself when you're quitting. You may find you have an almost constant urge to snack to make up for the hand-to-mouth motion you're missing in your first days as a nonsmoker. Resist the temptation to overdo it by portioning out snacks in small plastic bags for the week ahead so you have something reasonable to reach for when you're feeling hungry. Try crunching on celery sticks or carrots so you aren't adding hundreds of calories.
Choose healthy foods with plenty of nutrients, such as fresh fruits and veggies, for the majority of your snacks. Protein can help you feel satisfied longer, so add a small handful of nuts or spread some peanut butter on celery or apple slices for an extra-satiating treat. Low-fat cheeses are also high in protein and give you an extra boost of calcium and vitamin D, which can be especially important for former smokers who may have a calcium deficiency. Fight the temptation to down sugary and spicy foods, as these can intensify the urge to smoke, according to the American Cancer Society. If you're feeling restless but not really hungry, chew sugar-free gum or suck on a sugar-free candy or cinnamon stick to take the edge off.
Sip on a beverage before snacking when you're tempted to start munching. You may find liquid will quiet your tummy's grumblings and leave you satisfied until your next planned snack or meal. Stay away from sugary sodas and limit caffeine as much as possible. Opt for sparkling water, herbal tea or a small glass of 100 percent fruit juice. Skip the alcohol, too; it's likely to make you want to light up.
- British Medical Journal: Weight Gain in Smokers After Quitting Cigarettes: Meta-Analysis
- University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension: Smoke-Free and Fit Weight Management After Quitting Smoking
- American Cancer Society: Quitting Smoking: Help for Cravings and Tough Situations
- Kennesaw State University: Healthy Snacking for Smoking Cessation
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Smoking Cessation and Weight Gain
- Weight-Control Information Network: You Can Control Your Weight as You Quit Smoking