Chances are you either fall into the three-square-meals-a-day camp, or you’re a Serial Snacker. If snacking smarter is the #OneChange you are making in 2014, you need to clearly define your dietary kryptonite before you can begin transforming old habits to super habits. Here’s the science behind why we snack.
Snacking Because You’re Bored
After an exhausting day of work, all you want to do is plop down in front of the TV after dinner. Time to zone out—with your favorite snack at your side of course. While this may initially feel soothing and comforting, before you realize it you’re stuffed and you don’t even remember eating that snack.1 Mindless eating may provide instant gratification, but it will never make you full and can lead you to eat more than you desire.2 Put down the remote, turn off the TV, (yes you can wait until the commercial) and enjoy your snack with a mindful focus. And if your goal is weight management, snacking in the evening may not be helpful for your goals. Preliminary studies suggest that independent of total energy intake, those who eat their meals and snacks later loose less weight than those that eat consistently earlier. 3
Snacking Because You’re Just Plain Hungry
Skimp a little on breakfast and your stomach is bound to be upset by 10 AM. Avoid getting “hangry” (short temper or moodiness caused by hunger) by making sure you eat a complete breakfast that will keep you full for at least three hours, and don’t ignore those hunger pangs when they pop up. If you ignore the cues your stomach is giving you, you’re more likely to overindulge on your next meal. Aim to eat a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats every 3 to 5 hours. Pick up a snack of raw trail mix, apple and almond butter, or a Vega One bar so you can give in without feeling like you’re giving up on your goals.
Snacking Because You’ve Got a SERIOUS Craving
Oh, cravings. They seem to hit even the most diligent of us. Sometimes these cravings can mean you’re deficient in a specific nutrient. But more likely than not, they’re psychological. If you can’t seem to shake a craving by waiting 15 minutes to see if it disappears, try swapping in a healthy plant-based option using this handy-dandy list. (Can’t find a substitute for what you’re truly craving? Leave a comment below and we’ll find one and cover it in future articles)!
Snacking is bound to happen, so make it satisfying and nutritious. If weight management is your goal, use snacking as an opportunity to add in more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein. From there, identifying why you’re snacking will allow you to accurately satisfy that snack urge.
- Ogden J, et al (2013). Distraction, the desire to eat and food intake. Towards an expanded model of mindless eating. Appetite. 62:119-26.
- Lyons EJ, Tara DF, Ward DS. (2013). The better the story, the bigger the serving: narrative transportation increases snacking during screen time in a randomized trial. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 16;10:60. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3660271/pdf/1479-5868-10-60.pdf
- Garaulet M. (2013). Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. International Journal of Obesity. 37(4):604-11. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3756673/pdf/nihms478595.pdf
What’s the #OneChange you’re making to your Serial Snacking habit?