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Snack it right at night

It's 8 p.m. There's nothing that great on TV. Dinner was a couple of hours ago. You're not really hungry, but your mouth is bored. Hmm. There's that pecan pie in the fridge. Or chips. No, wait. How about a piece of the pecan pie with a couple scoops of ice cream on top?

Stop! Come back to reality. You don't need that. That's a special occasion treat, not something to satisfy a cranky tastebud.

If those 8 p.m. snack attacks are putting you in a new (bigger) size, you need to rethink them. I know how it is. My problem used to be a dangerous combination of grazing and denial. Yeah, I had two pieces of chocolate and some peanut butter and some vanilla wafers and two more pieces of chocolate. Prove it.

Then I started stocking my kitchen with friendly food. I still have chocolate and vanilla wafers, by the way. But now, I use them wisely, and the chocolate is a one-piece-a-day thing. Peanut butter and peanuts in general have to stay away because once I start, I know it will be many servings later before I can stop.

What you need is something that will satisfy with as little damage as possible. The simplest things to keep on hand are small bananas. Those petite little things you sometimes see in the produce section in green-arced bunches are delicious, but they're a little difficult to peel, so stick with smaller, regular bananas. Next time a snack attack comes along, slowly eat a banana and see how that goes.

Another friend is fiber. Fiber offers other benefits, but it also helps you feel full. Fiber cereal, such as Fiber One, is something you need to keep on hand. You can add it to low-fat or fat-free yogurt, for example. There are also new products on the market, such as fiber-rich cereal bars and toaster pastries, that satisfy much more than their counterparts.

Speaking of yogurt, try adding that to a serving of low-calorie cereal such as Special K Red Berries. I love cereal, but when I combine it with milk, it's easy to go over the serving limit. Add the cereal to yogurt, however, and your treat is a lot thicker and seems richer. It's also fun to combine the strawberry flaked cereal with, say, lemon or peach yogurt.

Good luck in the snacking department, and I'll see you in the grocery store.