Are you wondering how you can cut your snacking habit soon? A snack can be defined as food that is consumed between main meals. Many people find themselves snacking during the day, and there are many reasons why. Maybe you like the taste of certain snacks, or you feel hungry, or you feel a dip in energy.
Common snack choices are fruit, yogurt, chips, cookies, ice cream, candy, popcorn, soft drinks, cake, nuts, and so on. You may have realized that snacking between meals is making it difficult for you to maintain your weight and diet. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of snacking.
- Snacks provide a boost in energy, especially if your blood glucose levels have dropped.
- It helps you to curb your appetite until the next meal.
- Healthy snacks like fruit or nuts provide extra nutrients to your diet.
- It helps to maintain nutrition intake if you are not able to eat full meals during meal times.
- Snacking too much adds excess calories and causes unwanted weight gain.
- Snacking reduces hunger, and this may lead you to skip a meal altogether. This increases the loss of nutrients that you would have obtained from your main meal.
- Eating processed foods contains extra sugar, salt, and fats that are high in calories but low in nutrients.
Factors that Motivate Snacking
Many reasons cause snacking habits to develop. Listed below are some of the most common reasons.
- Hunger- Hunger is a cue that could lead you to snack between meals. This leads to the consumption of food that is high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Unhealthy snack choices promote poor nutrition and weight gain.
- Location- Location can make a difference in your snacking habits. For instance, if you are at home, you may reach out for healthier snacks throughout the day. But if you are outside, you may be tempted to eat from a fast-food joint. Food at restaurants and other eateries typically serve larger portions and have higher amounts of fat and less fiber.
- Distracted eating- Oftentimes, eating snacks is associated with watching TV or playing video games. If a certain task is found to be “boring,” the tendency is to snack while doing the task. Multitasking too tends to increase the number of snacks one consumes.
- Social culture and environment- Research suggests that depending on social factors like gatherings or parties, snacking tends to increase. Sometimes depending on the people who you eat with, your food portions can increase.
Ways to Improve Eating Habits
Here are some helpful tips that could help improve your eating habits:
- Eat slowly- Those who eat slowly generally tend to eat smaller meals and have a lower BMI (Body Mass Index). This is because when you eat slowly, the brain realizes that the stomach is full, thus giving cues to stop. Set time limits for meals and put your fork down between mouthfuls.
- Eat mindfully- Research shows that mindful eating helps to prevent overheating. Those who practice mindfulness enjoy moment-to-moment experiences. Mindful eating helps to prevent emotional and binge eating. Try focusing on the sensations when your food touches your tongue and observe the texture, the smell, the temperature, and so on. Focus on the emotions you feel while eating food.
- Highlight unhealthy eating habits- Keep a journal or a food diary to track your diet for a few days and write down everything you eat and the time that you eat it. This helps to uncover bad eating habits, and you can also note how you felt when you decided to eat a certain snack. Were you actually hungry, or were you more stressed out?
- Pay attention to cues- Pay attention to what triggers your eating habits when you are not hungry. Did you just open up a cabinet and see your favorite snack? Do you feel hungry while watching TV? Are you feeling stressed out at work, or did you just snack on a dish that someone cooked for you? Keeping track of your triggers can encourage you to control snacking.
- Cultivate and reinforce new habits- Once you realize all your bad habits and you pay attention to your snacking habits, make it a point to replace unhealthy habits with new and healthy ones. For instance, eat slowly when you are alone, minimize distractions while you eat, and eat only when you are really hungry instead of when you are anxious, tired, or emotional. Another good habit is to plan your meals ahead of time so that you have a healthy and well-balanced diet.
Tips to Prevent Overeating
Snacking means you may be consuming an excess amount of calories or that you may be consuming unhealthy calories. Read on to find out more about how you can prevent overeating.
- Remove stress- Research suggests that stress is a major factor when it comes to overeating. This is because stress raises hormone levels that signal your body to replace lost energy. As a result, if you are always stressed out you will be hungry and snack more often. Exercising regularly and practicing yoga or meditation helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Opt for healthful portions- Serving yourself less and eating from a smaller plate helps to minimize your portions. Research shows that larger plates automatically lead to larger portions, and you end up eating more calories than required. Try splitting meals when dining out, place food on your plate instead of serving from a dish at the table, and avoid eating straight out of a packet.
- Eat fiber-filled foods- Soluble as well as insoluble fiber foods can keep you feeling full for longer, thus helping to prevent overheating. Foods rich in fiber are whole grains and foods like sweet potatoes, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, oats, beans, peas, and lentils. Foods rich in protein helps to keep you full for a longer period and reduce the hormone ghrelin that is responsible for regulating hunger.
- Remove temptations- A good way to cut down on snacking is to remove food options. It’s hard to control yourself when you know you have a tub full of ice cream sitting in the freezer or a bowl full of candy on your kitchen counter. Cutting down on stockpiling bulk food is another way to keep your snacking habit in check.
- Stay hydrated- Sometimes, when you are hungry, you may actually be thirsty. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and stay away from other drinks like sodas, juices, coffees, and smoothies. Water is the best because it has no calories.
The Bottom Line
Once you are mindful of what foods you consume and how often you eat, cutting down on snacks should be easy. To start with, replace junk food that has excessive amounts of empty calories with healthier snacks like fruits, mixed nuts, Greek yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs. If you have an eating disorder like Binge Eating Disorder (BED), you should seek professional help.