If you have recently started a new diet or feel that there is one thing letting you down on your weight loss journey, you might be wondering about how to stop mindless snacking. Do not worry — this habit affects pretty much everyone! You are not alone.
Why Snacking Gets a Bad Rep
The term 'snacking' is used when referring to anything that you eat between your actual meal times (breakfast, lunch and dinner). However, although this word may bring about thoughts of food like chocolate, crisps and sweets (hence the bad the reputation), it can mean healthy food.
Why do we snack? Well, it is fueled by the feeling of hunger which causes our body to crave sugar- or fat-filled foods so it can bring our blood sugar levels up the quickest. This is why snacking has been linked to weight gain. But to answer your burning 'is snacking healthy' question — it can be, yes!
Having said this, a lot of people also snack when they are feeling low, panicked or possibly even angry. Stress and emotional eating are like two peas in a pod. The foods that are craved in these instances are bound to be full of carbs, fat or sugar as these components have been programmed in as comforting.
Hope is not lost, there are ways you can take back control of your eating and wave mindless snacking goodbye forever.
Why am I always hungry?
Hunger can cause your stomach to rumble, feelings of emptiness, headaches, irritability and prevents you from concentrating. While the majority of the population can go a fair few hours before this feeling creeps in, it does not apply to everyone.
You may be experiencing excessiveness hunger for a variety of different reasons like:
You're Not Consuming Enough Protein
Protein suppresses your appetite which will allow you to reduce your calorie intake automatically throughout the day. The hormones which signalise that you are full are increased when your diet is rich in protein.
It is really not difficult to boost your protein intake since a lot of foods have a high protein content. If you include meat, poultry, fish or eggs into each of your meals then you will be able to prevent feelings of excessive hunger.
You're Not Sleeping Enough
As we are sure you know, sleep is very much needed for our brain to function properly and for our immune system to be strong, however, it is also necessary for appetite control.
Getting enough regulates a hormone called ghrelin which is fired to signal feelings of hunger. Plus, leptin — the hormone which makes you feel full — is plentiful when you sleep the proper amount.
You're Eating Too Many Processed Carbs
Processed carbs — also known as refined carbs — have been ripped of all of their minerals, vitamins and fibre.
You will find these carbohydrates in white flour which is the base of foods such as pasta and bread. Your body digests these pretty quickly which can lead to you feeling hungry more speedily after a meal.
Of course, hydration is vital for both your body's and mind's health.
Water can also be very filling, aside from all the other health benefits, so if you drink a glass before each meal, it should control how much you eat.
Many times, if you think you are hungry, you may well be thirsty. It is best to consume some water before you reach for the crisp packet.
You're Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Studies have brought light to the fact that alcohol blocks hormones, like leptin, that reduce feelings of hunger. Not to mention that it inhibits self-control and judgement if drank excessively so you will probably end up eating more regardless of how hungry (or not) you feel.
You're Eating While You're Distracted
Living a fast-paced life can mean that you eat on the go a lot (or all) of the time. However, this has been known to increase the number of calories you consume, weight gain and a bigger appetite.
The main reason that this is the case is that you are less aware of the amount you're ingesting which inhibits your ability to realise when you are full.
This, of course, has a lot to do with mindless eating too but, thanks to the rest of this article, we are going to give you some healthy snacking tips and stop this distracted eating journey.
Eating and Mindfulness
Mindfulness and healthy eating go hand-in-hand but do not think that you have to spend 5 minutes thinking about every aspect of a lettuce leaf to mindfully eat.
There are ways to practices mindfulness in terms of eating in a more natural and doable way.
Allow Your Body to Catch Up With Your Brain
Pretty much the only way to enable this to happen is to slow down your eating so both your body and brain can effectively communicate. It takes around 20 minutes for this to happen, so when we say take it slow — we mean it!
There are a few ways you can eat much more sedately pretty easily like:
- Sitting down
- Chewing each mouthful 25 times or over
- Putting your fork down between each bite
Have a Mindful Kitchen
A mindful kitchen might be pretty new to you. But, effectively, all it means is that your kitchen is organised in a way that promotes healthy eating and nutritious mealtimes with your family.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Do I have healthy foods in the cupboards and the fridge?
- What foods can I see when I walk in?
- Is there room so everyone can eat together?
- Do I have consistent meal times?
- Do I usually shop when I am hungry?
Connect With Your Food
Instead of rushing to buy, prepare, cook and eat your meals, really consider when your ingredients have come from and the people who were involved in the entire process. Think about the water, soil and all the other natural elements involved but cast your mind to the gardeners, shelf stackers, shopkeepers, farmers, packers and countless others who had a part to play in bringing it to your table.
By doing this, you will experience so much love, interconnection and gratefulness to everyone and the earth you live on. This will not only satisfy you but it will also make you think about where you buy your food and the nutrient content.
4 Healthy Snacking Tips to Try
Snacking and weight loss does not have to be separate entities. They can go together very well if you follow all the advice we have already given you, and stick to the following 4, easy to follow tips.
1. Snack Mindfully
Like we covered under 'eating and mindfulness', have a mindful kitchen, connect with your food and allow your body to catch up with your mind.
2. Nuts, Nuts, Nuts
Nuts (and seeds) make tremendous healthy snacks. Try almonds, peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, filberts and many others carry a lot of nutrients that are sure to have you feeling full, as well as healthy.
Remember, they are pretty calorific though, so make sure to portion correctly.
3. Be Prepared
Take your healthy snacks to work or school with you so you will not feel tempted to turn to your office's vending machine or the biscuits that your boss brought round.
4. Combine It
Ensure your snacks contain more than one macronutrient, i.e. fat, protein or carbohydrate. Try to have some crackers for your carb component and some low-fat cheese for your protein and fat aspect. The balanced factor of this tasty snack will make sure you feel full.
You now know how to stop mindless snacking for good, all you have to do is follow our top-class advice and 4, really easy to incorporate tips.