three ways to help prevent snacking

by Stacy

Why do you snack?

Most people, I imagine, snack because they are hungry. But are they?

Failure, Vending Machine, Romford BR Platform 5
Photo credit: Salim Fadhley

As I mentioned in my post about how to pack healthy snacks, there are pro- and anti-snack camps. Not officially. But you know what I mean. The benefit of snacking is that it can help prevent low blood sugar or keep you from getting so hungry that you overeat at your next meal. The negative side of snacking is that many people eat empty calories, snack too much on unhealthy food, or eat sugar that causes a blood sugar roller coaster.

This isn’t to say no one should ever snack, but sometimes we snack when we shouldn’t. Just because I read up on a lot of health and nutrition information doesn’t mean I’m not guilty of eating too many cookies myself from time to time. Anyone else?

If you snack a lot, try these three ideas tomorrow. See if you still snack as much. Be your own little science experiment!

1.) When you feel hungry, drink a glass of water.

Often what we think of as hunger is really thirst. Our bodies get dehydrated enough that they are sending any signal they can to get some kind of liquid, including what you get from food. Next time you feel like snacking, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see if you still feel hungry. Other symptoms of thirst can be headache or fatigue (does this sound like you at 3:00 in the afternoon?).

2.) Reconsider your breakfast and lunch.

If your breakfast or lunch is made mostly of refined carbohydrates, you may not actually be hungry, just experiencing a drop in blood sugar. For years I ate cereal for breakfast and felt ravenous a few hours later, far before lunchtime. Adding protein, fiber, and/or healthy fat to your meals will help you feel full and not need a snack. Oatmeal or eggs keep me full much longer with no mid-morning crankiness. Swap high-fiber wheat toast for white, and add a little peanut butter or slices of avocado.

3.) Ask yourself why you’re snacking.

Are you actually hungry, or are you bored and need a break? Are you stressed and reaching for comfort? Are you actually thirsty? A few weeks ago I realized that I only wanted dessert after I interacted with a certain coworker who stresses me out. After I stopped eating meals with her, I stopped craving a sugary snack afterward. Instead, I ate a quiet lunch by myself and then went for a short walk outside. Less stress and no candy craving, plus a little movement and fresh air. Win-win! (I will post more about cravings another time as that is a complex and interesting issue.)

This is not to say that no one should ever snack. These are just a few things to consider as simple steps to eating and feeling better. If you packed veggies or fruit and want to nosh, great, but if you find yourself salivating at the vending machine every afternoon, it’s worth a shot — right?

What’s your take on snacking? Awesome? Awful? Somewhere in between?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Birch November 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

My snacking as awful. Especially when I’ve been sick and needing calories and when fiber has been bad. Otherwise apples, bananas, zucchini sticks (yummy!) work.

You keep recommending avocados, and I keep feeling sad because I cannot get an edible one at the close grocery store. The big one in town is usually decent, but I don’t go there often. And they have lots of food miles by the time they get here!

The vending machines have little stickers next to “less unhealthy” choices, like pretzels, raisins and… Rice Crispy bars. Really. W.T.F.


Stacy November 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm

The obvious solution is that you should come visit and eat local avocados. Duh.

Yeah, I love when food producers try to compare unhealthy choices to more unhealthy choices by setting the bar really low. Sigh.


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