You’re standing in the kitchen at 1 a.m., and the only light comes from the refrigerator illuminating your face as you choose between a bowl of cereal or another slice of pie. Or you’re waiting in line at the theater, deciding between chocolate-covered anything and popcorn (Who are we kidding? You’re treating yourself to both.). Or you’re sitting at your office desk, staring off into space, considering the chip and snack cake options the breakroom has to offer.
The urge to snack hits all of us all of the time, whether from actual hunger, boredom, or as part of a routine. The impulse to snack, while not inherently unhealthy, can lead to unhealthy habits when not kept in check. Mindful snacking – being aware of why you snack, when you’re most likely to snack, and what you snack on – is one small, easy step anyone can take toward living a happier, healthier life. Here are six tips to help you become a more mindful snacker.
- Make fruits or veggies the base of every snack. – Snacking doesn’t have to be a bad thing! By making a fruit or vegetable the star of your snack, you can snack more nutritiously and meet the USDA’s recommended daily intake of 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables. Make smart substitutions in snacks you already enjoy!Snack to try: Swap chips for baby carrots or celery to pair with your favorite dip or salad dressing. You get the same crunch and flavor, but with far fewer calories. Or, instead of peanut butter crackers that are full of added sugar, try apple slices smeared with almond butter.
- Make your snacks flavorful. – Healthy snacks don’t have to be bland. Who says you’re restricted to wheat crackers and string cheese? You can snack on the flavors you love without sacrificing nutrition.Snack to try: Instead of a bowl of sugary cereal or flavorless bran flakes before bed, try a bowl of oatmeal with fresh or frozen fruit. Add diced peaches, a drizzle of honey, and a dash of cinnamon for a peach cobbler flavor. Or try adding sliced bananas, a handful of walnuts, and a drop of vanilla for a low-calorie banana bread substitute.
- Indulge smartly. – Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods. It’s okay to deviate from healthy eating every once in a while and snack on something not so nutritious but oh so delicious. Portion control is key here. Also, plan accordingly. If you know you’re going to have a not so healthy snack in the evening, eat a lighter lunch or dinner.
- Plan for snack attacks. – Some days you’re down right desperate for any kind of food to consume, so you grab the first candy bar you see in a vending machine or pick up a large fry in the drive-through. It’s easy, cheap, temporarily satisfying, and nowhere near healthy if done frequently. To avoid this temptation, place easy-to-carry snacks in easy-to-access places such as your purse, backpack, car, or desk.Snack to try: Portion out flavored pumpkin seeds (maple and sea salt is a favorite) into plastic baggies to grab when you’re on the go. They’re full of protein, fiber, magnesium, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, all of which are good for your bones, heart, and liver. Also, stock up on protein bars or nut-seed bars (Try to stay under 200 calories and avoid added sugars.)
- Know what type of snacker you are. – Everyone snacks for a reason. Discover the reason, and you’ll have an easier time being a mindful snacker. Emotional snackers are likely to seek comfort from food when they’re upset. Boredom snackers look for food when not mentally stimulated. Repetitive snackers find comfort in the action and motions of snacking and are likely to eat foods that are made of little pieces (think trail mix, M&M’s, or popcorn). Know when and why you’re likely to snack to help combat unhealthy snacking behaviors.
- Drink water. – I know you’ve heard it a million times before, but drinking enough water can do wonders for your health! Replace sodas, sweet tea, fruit-flavored juices, and sports drinks with water at meal times to reduce calorie and sugar consumption. Make sure to drink plenty of water between meals, too, to keep you full and prevent over-snacking.Snack to try: If you don’t like the taste of plain water, drink fruit-infused water instead. You can choose from any number of fruit, vegetable, herb, and spice combinations. Use thinly sliced or cubed fruits to infuse flavors more quickly. Try mango, pineapple, and mint for something tropical and bright. Try pears, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans for something reminiscent of apple pie.
Health Life – Jan-Feb 2017
Snack Attack: 6 Ways to Practice Mindful Snacking
Written by: Anna Limoges