While fewer Americans smoke these days, tobacco use, which accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths, is still the most preventable cause of death in our society. In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths.
If you still use tobacco, quitting is one of the best New Year's resolutions you could make. But, according to the American Cancer Society, only about 4 to 7 percent of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medication or other help, such as the support of family and friends, assistance from a doctor or health-care professional, or individual or group counseling.
One fear many smokers have is that quitting will automatically lead to weight gain, as the smoker replaces one habit (tobacco) for another (snacks and desserts). Victoria Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN, blogger and owner of the Lifestyle Nutritionist, says that fear does not have to become a reality. "The benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the risks of gaining weight," she says. "Replace smoking with drinking more water for the benefits of hydration. Plan balanced meals to replace empty calories. And, eat every three to four hours."
Weight gain can be a struggle for those quitting smoking because of the smokers' habit of frequently having something in their mouths. Instead of reaching for a cookie or chips, Brooke Schantz, MS, RDN, CCSD, LDN, owner of Bitchin' Nutrition, suggests something healthier. "Raw vegetables such as baby carrots, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes or bell peppers are great tools any smoker can use to break the hand-to-mouth habit, while preventing weight gain from non-essential calories," she says.
Besides crunchy raw vegetables, Jacqueline King, MS, RDN, CDE, FADA, author of Too Busy to Diet, suggests keeping plenty of healthy snacks and light meals at hand, such as fruit, popcorn, hot soup made with vegetables, cheese and whole-grain crackers, tea and a few lower-sugar or lower-calorie cookies.
If you've decided to quit smoking in 2016, congratulations on your healthy choice! Now, consider getting help from a health professional who understands that the nicotine addiction is hard to break while maintaining a healthier lifestyle.