How to stop snacking!
Snacking or No Snacking?
When it comes to dietitians & nutritionists, there are two different streams seen in the number of meals advised by them. One set of people believe many frequent meals distributed over the day is a good way of eating while others believe lesser meals, even as less as one or two meals a day is the right way of eating. Whichever stream of beliefs you follow, it’s very important to make the right choices of food and eat healthily. Being humans, however, we tend to give in to the temptations and tend to eat between the scheduled time for our meals. This is called snacking. Most of the time snacking is bad because we end up eating unhealthy food as a snack.
There are different reasons for snacking. Based on these types I have categorized snackers into 4 different types.
Genuine snacker –
You snack because you are hungry or starving. Your body will ask for food as a snack if you are not providing it with sufficient food during your mealtime. It also might happen when you are burning or consuming more than what you are eating by working out. Calorie deficit diets always push people to such snacking habits. It can be dangerous to go below your minimum calorie requirements calculated based on your weight. Instead of slipping into an unhealthy snacking habit to compensate your caloric needs, here are some tips to avoid snacking.
- Eat well during mealtime: Include complex carbohydrates and high fiber which can give satiety for a long time. Make sure all your meals are balanced in terms of nutrition and calorie value.
- Include snacks during the meal: If you want to eat something which is not part of your regular meal like some savory snack or sweet, include it as part of the meal.
- Avoid electronic screens while eating: Avoid watching TV, Mobile, Laptop etc while having your food. It is believed that digestion starts at the point where your eyes first see the food that you are going to eat. Instead of watching tv focus on the food. This will not only improve digestion but also will give you mental satisfaction and awareness of what you are eating.
- Try to eat mindfully: Whenever you are eating try to be aware of the taste, smell, texture, and color of the food. Be fully aware of the moment when you are eating.
- Make arrangements for healthy snacks: It might happen that you will still feel hungry especially after workouts. Keep some healthy snacks readily available. A handful of nuts or a medium-sized fruit is a good snack and won’t hurt you as much.
Bored Snacker –
A bored snacker is one who snacks because they are bored with the current activity. It might happen when you are doing the same task for a long time and get bored with the pace of that task. To change the pace you might turn to the food cupboard and snack even if you are not hungry.
- Plan your daily tasks as well as mealtime: Keep scheduled time for all meals and snacks if its part of your diet. It will be more likely to stick to this schedule if it is planned with other activities.
- Take a quick break and walk: Sometimes all you need is a break or a change of pace. Instead of snacking why not take a break and go for a quick walk. Go up and down the stairs if that is possible, or go out for a walk. If nothing is possible just walk around in the house for a few minutes and then resume work.
- Almond therapy: Eat 6- 7 almonds as slow as possible. Take one almond at a time, let it soak in your mouth till the skin comes off, then eat the skin slowly, trying to keep the rest of the almond as it is. Then eat it by taking small bites. So basically it should take you as long as 30 mins to finish 7 almonds. This also increases mindfulness and makes you feel like you had enough snacks.
- Dark chocolate / Black coffee: Have a piece of dark (90-99% cocoa) chocolate or a black coffee. Both these are known to improve mood and make you active. Cofee is also known as a hunger suppressant. However, do this in moderation as excessive coffee is not good.
- Brush your teeth: As weird as it sounds, this works, especially on sweet cravings. If you know you are not hungry and just want to snack because you are bored, brush your teeth. The minty after taste of toothpaste will push you away from the craving for snacks. Needless to say, this will improve your oral hygiene as well.
Opportunistic Snacker –
This is probably the worst type of snacker as they snack just because snacks are available. Due to COVID locked-down, we see these habits increasing day by day. Being at home and having access to snacks makes people snack without reason.
- Don’t buy bulk snacks: Snacks are mostly preservable items and we tend to buy them in bulk. Having excess quantity available is like inviting opportunistic snacking. Buy lesser amounts, maybe supplies for a week only. This way the availability will be controlled and eventually, consumption also will be reduced.
- Buy small packs: If you really want to eat something that is not healthy, then buy one serving packs of such snacks. e.g Chips, cookies, biscuits. You will be able to control better if it is a single-serving pack as opposed to a family pack.
- Plan meals in advance: Make menu planning in advance. When you are aware of what you will eat in the day, you will less likely reach out for the food cupboard and get something that is not on the list.
- Don’t eat because it is custom: Yes, we do eat some food/ snacks just because it is a custom. Going for a movie does not necessarily mean one has to eat popcorn or nachos. Drinking parties do not always have to have unhealthy snacks to accompany the drinks. While it is absolutely fine to indulge once in a while, make sure you plan the rest of the day accordingly. So plan, think, and limit.
- Keep a food log: If you already have observed your snacking habits are going out of your control, then keep a food log. It might not be comfortable to keep a food log for everything you eat forever, but doing it for a couple of weeks can definitely give you an idea of major slip-ups in your diet. Many apps like MyFitnessPal are available for free use.
Emotional snacker –
Emotional snacking happens when your body tries to compensate for your mood with excess food. When we are sad we are most likely to reach out for high carb, fatty n sugary stuff. Furthermore, emotional eating is a cycle. Because you are sad you feel the urge to eat. You will mostly end up overeating as hunger is absent and so is the satisfaction of that hunger. Soon you realize you have overeaten which makes you feel guilty. This guilty feeling makes you sad again. And being sad you eat again….. Unless the underlying emotions are taken care of this cycle is difficult to break.
- Talk to someone about your feelings: Talk to your friends, family, or therapist about your emotions. It was seen in an experiment that people with suppressed emotions tend to eat more junk food. It’s better to empty the emotions out of the system so that you don’t end up stress eating.
- Pause: When you crave a snack, take a pause wait for 10-15 minutes, maybe brink a glass of water, and check-in after some time. If it’s emotional hunger you might not need that snack. Physical hunger builds up gradually while emotional hunger comes as a spike. If we allow to let go of the spike, you might feel better. Emotional hunger also makes you crave a specific food or food type. This pause gives you the opportunity to identify that and try to control it.
- Moderate: Let yourself have a snack in strict moderation and enjoy every bit of it. Sometimes a muffin is all you need, it is fine to have it but not gobble it. Enjoy every bit, take your time to eat, and feel grateful about it.
- Drink water: Many times we confuse thirst with hunger. Make sure you are hungry and not just thirsty. If it is not your mealtime and you remember having a proper meal before, try to drink water. Water also works on balancing our mood and has a relaxing effect.
- Include workouts: Workouts like brisk walking, running, or sports like badminton, tennis, basketball pumps adrenaline, and secrete feel-good hormones like dopamine. These will help to keep your mood elevated and give you the strength to fight the craving for excess snacks. Workouts also act as motivation to change to an overall healthier lifestyle.
Food should not be seen as an enemy. It is good to enjoy food and it is important to have a healthy relationship with food. The choices however have to be revisited to check for the health quotient of the food we eat. Starving, doing crash diets or restrictive diets is not a sustainable option, as sooner or later your body will ask more in terms of snacks. It is seen that snacking abruptly on junk food is the main reason for weight gain rather than eating sufficient healthy home-cooked food during regular meals. Hence try to quit snacking and have a healthy life ahead!