Why Am I Constantly Snacking?
Following a healthy eating plan can be difficult at the best of times, especially with the vast array of food options that we have at our fingertips today. Sometimes hunger can set in and smashing back a few snacks becomes inevitable.
In many cases, snacking is the downfall of a healthy diet - but it doesn't have to be.
Here we offer some simple guidance as to recognising why you might be feeling those hunger pangs and how to deal with them in a way that supports your goals.
Why Do We Snack?
One of the greatest solutions to any problem is to become aware of what is causing it. You must ask yourself “Why am I snacking?” Is it really because you’re feeling hungry, or are there other motives at play, such as boredom, stress, or food addictions? Is it because of what’s in your pantry, because of the vending machine below your office, or because of an ad you saw on TV?
Take a look at when you feel the urge to snack also. Do you wake up with hunger cravings, or are you more likely to snack right before bedtime? Are you reaching for some sweets every time 3pm rolls around?
Once you have identified why you are snacking, changing your habits to align with your goals becomes a heck of a lot easier.
If you're snacking because you are hungry, it could be your body’s way of trying to tell you that it is lacking in certain nutrients or needs more energy. If this is indeed the case – i.e. you are exercising a lot or are quite physically active in general, then the quickest fix is to increase the amount of quality food that you are eating during regular meal times. This way your body will have greater supplies of nutrients and will not be begging you for extra calories.
If you happen to be feeling hungry at the same time every day, take a look at what you are eating in your meals previous to this and judge for yourself whether they are in alignment with your goals. If 3pm is your trouble time zone, what are you eating for lunch? And when? Can you add a little more protein, fibre or healthy fats to bulk it out a little and keep you going?
Emotional snacking can be a little trickier to overcome as the challenges extend beyond the physical. If you are bored and struggling with the urge to reach for something to munch on, here are a few ideas on how to overcome this:
Pay Attention To What You Are Eating
Often in this day and age we eat without paying much attention to what is going in to our mouth, instead giving most of our attention to what is showing on the screens in front of us. Because the attention is not placed on our food, we often end up eating too much as the subtle sensations of feeling full are initially not seen, and we miss out on fully experiencing the sensations that make eating pleasurable – taste, texture, smell etc.
Try putting down your phone for a second and actually taste your food. Savour it, enjoy it and be grateful that you can satisfy one of life’s most basic needs. Give this a shot and observe how smaller amounts of food become so much more satisfying and enjoyable.
Put It On A Plate
Portion control is a big helper when it comes to controlling your snacking habits. If you eat chips from a packet often the only way you’ll ever stop is if you reach the end of the packet. If you take out a smaller amount and put it in a bowl, you give yourself a chance of reaching the end of snack time with your goals still in tact. And, best of all, you still have chips left over in the cupboard to enjoy another day.
Often when we feel hungry it is really thirst in disguise. We all know the importance of good hydration, especially if you are consuming a lot of processed snacks as they can be very high in sodium. Water will also help to fill you up temporarily and reduce any immediate cravings. If you are after a bit of flavour you could always mix it up – sparkling water on ice with a squeeze of lime – yum!
Put Healthy Foods In Plain Sight
By removing unhealthy snacks from your view and replacing them with healthy alternatives you’ll be more likely to make healthy choices. Transfer those packets of chocolate biscuits to the bin and instead try placing a couple of pieces of fruit in the front of your fridge, or a packet of mixed nuts at eye level in your pantry.
Track What You Eat
If you start by writing down an honest account of everything that you eat in a day you will get a pretty good picture of the types of foods that you are consuming and whether or not they are in alignment with your goals. This can help you to stay within your boundaries, as you will be more aware of the choices that you are making each day.
Mindless snacking tends to happen when we are sedentary at home or work. Lying on the couch binge watching Netflix – there’s no better time to break open that packet of peanut M&Ms. Watching TV has even been linked to increased snacking regardless of hunger.
Chances are you’re reading this article because in some way you want to lead a more active, healthy lifestyle. So, how about switching off the screen and going for a walk instead. Take your mind of those unhelpful cravings and get your body moving and blood flowing.
What Are You Choosing To Snack On?
Ok so let’s concede that there will always be a time and a place for snacking. But is there really ever a time or place for demolishing a whole pack of gummy bears in one sitting?
There’s an old saying – you are what you eat. If you find yourself feeling like a couch potato and you happen to be eating potatoes on the couch well...it’s not hard to put two and two together now is it.
Snacks don’t have to be processed garbage! Sure those can be delicious, but there are so many healthy options that are not only equally as tasty but also don’t make you feel like garbage afterwards.
What’s your snacking style? Do you buy a block of good quality dark chocolate and make it last all week or do you smash a box of scorched almonds in an afternoon? Do you at least wait until the toast is ready before putting peanut butter or do you spoon it directly from the jar?
Do you count your morning, mid morning, late morning and post morning flat whites as snacks? What about a beer during...I mean after work?
As it happens, processed snacks like chips, chocolate, cookies and confectionary make up far too much of our daily energy intake. These types of foods tend to give you a rush of good feelings as many of them cause spikes in blood sugar and a release of dopamine in the brain, only for you to crash pretty quickly as blood sugar drops again and the brain begs you for more. This can make it hard to concentrate, and make you feel tired and drained. A diet high in processed snacks can also negatively impact your mood.
So What To Do? Where To Begin?
Well you can start by removing temptation. It’s easier to avoid eating something if you don’t have it around in the first place.
Go through what’s in your kitchen cupboards and get rid of all the junk that you’ve been saving for a rainy (or sunny, or cloudy) day. Make a mental note of the items you removed and avoid buying them again next time you do your grocery shopping.
Snacking is not the devil by default. It just so happens that generally we associate the term with foods that are about as far from nourishing as can be. If your lifestyle requires regular energy top ups, try purchasing healthy snacks instead. To start off with, think about the snacks that you are eating. Would they fit easily into a food group such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products or proteins?
Snacking also extends to what we drink. Fizzy drinks, iced tea and most bottled juices tend to contain a lot of added sugars and artificial ingredients, and are usually high in calories but low in nutrients. Home made fruit juices are nice natural alternatives, as is a glass of milk and the best beverage of all - water.
What Are Some Examples Of Healthy Snacks?
There are a couple of boxes that you can try to tick when it comes to choosing snacks.
Look for foods that:
Are less than 300 calories
Contain at least 3g of fibre
Contain at least 5g of protein
Are low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium
Some Ideas Could Be
- Hard boiled egg
- Wholegrain toast with avocado or nut butter
- A handful of mixed nuts
- A small tub of natural yoghurt with berries
- Hummus and carrot sticks
- Protein shake
- Edamame beans
- Natural popcorn
As with anything in life, the greatest secret to maintaining good health while enjoying the occasional treat is balance. If your scales are starting to tip too far in favour of snacking, try evening things out with one of our balanced, healthy, whole food meals. Whether it’s high energy that you're looking for, quality nutrients or simply convenience, having a selection of our meals in your freezer will help to remove the temptations that come with an empty stomach and help keep you on track.