With many of us sheltering at home, we tend to gravitate towards activities that keep us occupied. Sometimes we choose activities to escape the feeling of boredom. They give us a reason to break from work or serve as a distraction from stress and difficult emotions. During these times, snacking may become a frequent habit. It is important to recognize that snacking is not inherently “good” or “bad.” The choice to include snacks in your diet should be based on your activity level, overall calorie needs, health goals, and medical conditions. One way to keep snacking in moderation and avoid unwanted snacking habits is to take a mindfulness approach. Mindfulness simply involves being aware of your body’s internal state (thoughts, feelings, motivation, etc.) without judgment.
Setting Up Successful Snacking Routines
1. Listen to your hunger cues
Your body is the key to know if you are experiencing true hunger. It self-regulates with hormones and other chemical messengers to signal when it needs food. At times, stress or anxiety can make us turn to snacking as a coping mechanism. Take a moment to listen to your body to decrease unwanted snacking. Ask yourself if it makes sense to feel hungry at a particular moment. Eat slowly so your body has time to digest and signal to your brain when you have had enough to feel satisfied.
2. Understanding Stress Snacking
Stress and other emotions can distract us from our natural hunger cues. We may reach for food regardless if we are feeling hungry or full. During these times, it’s okay to ask yourself questions like these: Am I hungry? Am I anxious? Am I sad? Am I bored?
If the answer is anything unrelated to food, try activities to cope with the stressor or emotions you are experiencing. These activities could include proactively meeting a challenge, talking to loved ones, exercising, reading, deep breathing, meditation, or house chores.
3. Snack to Satisfy
Choose snacks that contain nutrients to satisfy your hunger. This will allow you to enjoy your snack choice without the need to overindulge.
Fiber: Fiber-rich foods promote the feeling of fullness and satisfaction longer than highly processed snacks. The body slowly digests foods with dietary fiber and that increases the time it takes food to pass through the digestive system. Look for snacks that contain at least 2 grams of fiber or more per serving.
Protein & Carbohydrates: Protein is another nutrient that promotes satiety, or the feeling of fullness. For that reason, pairing protein and carbohydrates together is an ideal snacking combination. Here are some of our dietitian’s favorite carb + protein combinations: berries + yogurt, whole grain crackers + peanut butter, grapes + hardboiled egg, whole wheat pita + hummus.
Fruits & Vegetables: Use your snack as an opportunity to protect your body with antioxidants, fiber and vitamins from vegetables and fruit. Pair your produce with a little protein like low-fat cheese, hummus, or peanut butter and you will have a satisfying snack. Reach for a piece of fruit the next time you are craving something sweet for a nutritious alternative.
Limit Added Sugar Intake: Snacks with added sugar can be tempting because they provide immediate satisfaction. Unfortunately, they will not keep you full for long and chances are you will want another snack soon after. Limiting added sugar intake and focusing on fiber, protein, and carbohydrates will help your body get the most out of snacking. The new food label allows you to see just how much added sugar is in packaged foods.
4. Plan Ahead
Before going to the store, make a list of items you will need to buy and include a section for snacks. Knowing what you need to buy ahead of time can help decrease grabbing a bag of chips or box of mini donuts on impulse. Not to mention, it will help keep your grocery bill down as well. Then when snack time rolls around, you know you have a well-stocked pantry with nutrient-dense options.
5. Portion Control
Instead of eating snacks directly out of the package, portion out one serving at a time into a bowl. Pre-portioning snacks helps reduce mindless eating and allows your body time to signal that you are full.
6. Avoid Distractions
Take time to enjoy the food in front of you and to tune into mindful eating. When enjoying your snack, be free from distractions. Sit at a table, turn off the TV, take a break from work and any use of technology. Allow your body to tell you when you feel full and satisfied. If your body has too many distractions while eating, that feeling of fullness may be delayed.
A well-balanced snack should be nutrient-dense and limited to 100-200 calories for most individuals.
100 calories or less
- ½ cup low fat yogurt
- 1 large banana
- 1 medium apple
- ¼ cup hummus
- 3 cups plain air-popped popcorn
- 5 oz turkey meat
- 1 oz (28g) baked plain chips
- 2 cups raw carrot strips
- 2 sticks string cheese (48g)
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup grapes
200 calories or less
- 1 cup low fat yogurt
- 1 oz of unsalted mixed nuts
- ½ cup hummus
- 6 cups plain air-popped popcorn
- 2 TBSP peanut butter
- 5 oz cheddar cheese
- 2 oz (52g) baked plain chips
- 4 oz (120g) pita bread