Do you find yourself taking multiple breaks throughout the day for snacks? Do you grab handfuls of snacks from the pantry or fridge?
If you’ve found yourself over snacking, mindlessly snacking or opportunistically eating, you’re not alone! There are many reasons we mindlessly and opportunistically eat. The most common stem from boredom, stress, uncertainty, and a very accessible kitchen.
We’re sharing tips for combatting over snacking and mindless snacking throughout the day.
1. Choose Snacks with Protein
Snacks notoriously get a bad rap, but snacking can be a healthy habit. A balanced snack has protein, fiber and healthy fat. Balanced snacks control your blood sugar, maintain energy levels throughout the day and curb intense cravings.
Avoid eating carbohydrates as snacks all by themselves. This is where snacking can fall apart! We can endlessly eat carbohydrate foods (crackers, chips, cookies, etc.) until the point we ‘re uncomfortably full, unsatisfied, lethargic or over-stuffed.
Start your snack with a protein then add in a healthy fat and round your snack out with a higher fiber carbohydrate. For example, start with a spoon of nut butter, add a spoonful of chia seeds and pair with a piece of fruit like an apple.
Protein and fat slow the spike in blood sugar from carbohydrates and help to slow digestion (a good thing!) which keeps us feeling fuller and more satisfied after snacking.
Structure your snacks like mini meals to feel more satisfied and prevent over snacking. You are much less likely to overeat whole food snacks!
Examples of balanced snacks include: hard boiled egg with avocado on a rice cake, celery with almond butter, yogurt with chia seeds and frozen berries or a smaller portion of dinner leftovers.
2. Fill ½ Plate with Vegetables
This is key! Start with filling half of your plate with vegetables.
Adding more vegetables throughout the day at meals and snacks is an easy way to get more fiber-rich foods in your diet. Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils contain fiber that helps keep us feeling fuller for longer and steadies our blood sugar throughout the day. Fiber is also known as a prebiotic which means healthy bacteria known as probiotics which live in our gut feed and thrive on these plant fibers. Fiber is a true super food!
Including vegetables in snacks can be easy with some forethought. Consider making vegetables just as easy to grab as chips and crackers.
Pre-chop vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, celery and broccoli and keep them in the refrigerator to dip in tzatziki, hummus, or guacamole.
3. Don’t Go > 4 hours Between Meals and Snacks
Snacking 1-2 times per day can be a healthy habit. Snacking on minimally processed and whole foods can enhance your nutrient intake and help stabilize your blood sugar levels, energy and improve your mood.
This recommendation likely already has some of you thinking about intermittent fasting. Some people may find intermittent fasting works for them, while others are wildly unsuccessful and end up fixated on food or frustrated fasting wasn’t a magic fix. There is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition. If you practice fasting, eating consistently within your eating window is still beneficial for balancing blood sugar. Eating consistently does not mean eating every hour! Eating consistently means structuring your meals and snacks to not go more than 4 hours between eating opportunities.
Going more than 4 hours throughout the day between eating opportunities can lead to poorly regulated, insatiable hunger, opportunistic eating, larger portions, more processed foods … the list goes on! We tend to not have the best decisions when we’re making decisions about food and eating when we’re overly hungry. The best way to not skip meals and snacks within the day? Have a meal and snack plan for what and when to eat.
4. Set Reminders To Snack
With everything going on, sometimes eating times can naturally fall to the wayside. It’s easy to roll through a snack and find yourself starving before dinner. Setting a reminder to eat a healthy snack can help you stay feeling your best.
Many of us are in new routines working from home and/or home schooling. Setting an alarm to remind you to eat may seem counterintuitive (especially if your goal is weight loss), but can be a helpful practice to remind us to break for a healthy snack. Remember, a balanced snack can prevent overeating later in the day.
While counterintuitive, setting reminders to snack can be helpful to maintaining our energy throughout the day.
5. Prep 1-2 Snacks to Easily Grab
If you are finding yourself in your pantry throughout the day or struggling with portion sizes, consider investing a small amount of time and effort into planning and portioning snacks (and meals!) in advance.
Structure your snacks and meals as if you were working at the office when planning at the beginning of the week.
To get started, plan and prep 1-2 balanced snacks to easily grab and go throughout the day.
6. Avoid Eating Anything That Is Not in a Bowl Or On a Plate
Eating off a bowl, plate or napkin is one tactic to being more mindful of what we’re eating throughout the day.
Eat food out of a bowl or on a plate to help prevent handfuls of mindless food consumption. This makes it easier for you to develop an awareness around the portions that you are eating.
7. Practice Hitting Pause
This is a highly emotional time. You will be more likely to turn to food when you do not give yourself space to process emotions. Engaging in a mindfulness practice is always beneficial but that’s especially true during emotionally taxing times.
Practice hitting pause before opening the fridge or pantry to mindlessly snack. You have the power to stop yourself from eating out of boredom. Hitting pause is a way to practice mindfulness. Cultivating mindfulness practice has many mind and body health benefits.
When you hit pause, ask yourself: am I actually hungry? If so, eat a balanced snack! But if you check in and notice you are bored and aimless, consider the following:
Are you hydrated? Aim to drink .5-1oz water/day. Hydration is so incredibly important for regulating your food intake, in addition to delivering oxygen to your cells and enhancing energy and digestive regularity! The body has a hard time distinguishing between whether you are hungry or thirsty, so be sure to drink throughout the day.
If you are bored but not hungry, opt for making an herbal tea or infused seltzer water to give yourself the taste you are craving without overindulging. Hydrating drinks include all unsweetened beverages like herbal teas and unsweetened and non-artificially sweetened waters.
Do something else during your break! It’s healthy to take breaks throughout the day, but don’t fill your time mindlessly eating.
Make a list of things to do besides mindlessly snack. Here are some of our go to’s: take a walk, go on a quick bike ride, stretch, complete housework, listen to a few uplifting songs, read a chapter from a book, meal or snack prepping (washing, cutting and prepping) or just take a 10-15 minute break.
Want more strategies for smart snacking? Schedule a complimentary call to get started working with a RESULTS dietitian.