Mindless eating affects us more than we would like to admit. For instance, you take out a bag of chips intending to eat just a handful, but you end up eating everything and craving for more. You have tried to drop these poor snacking habits, but a few days later, you are back at it.
No one is telling you to stop snacking entirely because that is near impossible. Snacking does not have to be destructive and result in filling your body with plenty of empty calories. Here’s how to stop snacking mindlessly for good.
11 Ways To Stop Mindless Snacking
Getting rid of bad habits such as binge eating and frequent snacking can be a nightmare. Unfortunately, eating too much can result in weight gain over time, and if you are not on the lookout, you could become obese. In addition, obesity is associated with an increased risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, and type II diabetes.
Healthy and intentional snacking poses no risks. When done right, snacking is a great way of getting nutrients into your body, providing an energy boost, and stopping overeating. But if you are in the habit of eating several bags of chips, you need to stop.
Here’s how to stop snacking so much:
Plan And Eat Proper Meals
If you want to snack less, you must eat proper meals. If you don’t eat enough to fill yourself up, you will keep getting cravings. Also, do not starve yourself in the name of weight loss, as you might end up eating more junk instead.
Different people may have different nutritional needs. For instance, more physically active individuals need heavier meals than those who sit at office desks all day. Make sure you include all the macros in your diet – protein, carbs, and fats. Don’t forget that vegetables and fruits should take up half of your plate.
Also, do not skip breakfast. You can use an app to plan your meals or manually write the menu down and hang it on your fridge. If you are busy, you can prepare meals over the weekend and store them in the refrigerator.
High protein meals help fill you up and keep you full for longer. They also help boost metabolism and build muscle mass (14). High fiber diets and foods with high water content, such as veggies and fruits, are also great as the fiber helps increase satiety (4).
Drink Lots Of Water
Drinking a lot of water has many health benefits. Water helps boost metabolism, flush out toxins, regulate body temperature, boost skin health and prevent damage to the kidneys. Water is also a natural appetite suppressant (6).
Sometimes you may mistake the feeling of thirst for hunger. So you end up eating when you are just thirsty. Water helps take up space in your stomach and promotes the feeling of satiety, removing the need for frequent snacking.
Drink a glass of water before meals and when you get the urge to reach for a snack. Always have a bottle of water with you throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Control Your Eating Environment
Still not sure how to stop late night snacking? Controlling your eating environment might help. The popular saying out of sight, out of mind applies. Keeping certain foods out of sight is one of the best ways on how to stop snacking at night.
If you have snacks in your house, it is easy to get some late night snacks. Placing less nutritious snacks on your countertops might also tempt you. However determined you may be, beating the urge to reach for snacks is difficult if they are readily available.
One small study found that office workers who put candy in clear bowls ate 2.2 more sweets each day than those who placed candy in opaque bowls (17). Keep tempting foods away from countertops and place fruits like apples or bananas in a visible location instead. You can also stop buying snacks altogether if your snacking gets out of control.
Use Taller Glasses And Smaller Serveware
This may seem like an old trick, but it does work especially with homemade snacks as they do not come in packages. Remember that snacks are to keep you going, so you do not need large servings. So if you use regular plates for your snacks, you may end up overeating.
Individuals are usually inclined to eat everything they serve on a plate. So if you use a large plate, you are likely to consume more food and consequently more calories (1). Using smaller plates is a simple way to reduce portion sizes without noticing it.
Taller, narrow glasses can also help reduce the amount of liquids you pour yourself (2). Use tall, narrow glasses for alcohol and other high-calorie drinks and short, wide ones for water.
Opt For Smaller Snack Packages
On the other hand, smaller packaging makes you eat less in one sitting. Participants eating from a large packet of M&Ms consumed more candies than those given small packs of M&Ms in one study (3).
Also, packages that use segmentation help reduce overconsumption as the pause gives you time to decide if you want to eat some more. For instance, individuals eating potato chips from containers where every 7th or 14th chip was dyed consumed 43 to 65% fewer chips than those eating from containers with no dyed chips (15).
When shopping, go for smaller packages. You can also divide your snacks and foods into smaller portions using portion control containers.
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Increase The Inconvenience Of Getting To Snacks
Increasing the inconvenience of getting to snacks might help you reduce your snack consumption. For example, if you store your snacks far away, you might think twice about getting up or pausing what you are doing to get a packet of candy or cookies.
One small study looks at this method. Office workers were given 3 bowls of candy that were placed in 3 different locations. One bowl of candy was placed on their desks, the other in a drawer, and the third 1.8metres away.
On average, the participants ate 4 candies if they had to walk to the bowl, 6 when the bowl was placed in the drawer, and 9 when placed on the office desks (9). The participants quoted that the distance they have to walk to reach the bowl made them think twice about whether they need the sweets.
Pick snacks that require some effort to prepare, like homemade sweet potato chips, or keep unhealthy snacks out of reach. You can lock them away in a cupboard or place them on top shelves that require a ladder or stool to reach.
Unplug While Eating
Snacking while you’re occupied can lead you to eat quicker, consume more, and feel less full. Regardless of whether this is sitting in front of the TV, paying attention to the radio, or playing a PC game, the sort of interruption doesn’t appear to issue a lot.
Treat snack time like other mealtimes and put away your laptop, phone, or tablet. Pay attention to your food snack. Chew slowly and enjoy it. This way, you will feel full and won’t be looking for another snack to eat after another hour.
In one study, individuals watching television while eating ate 71% more mac and cheese and 36% more pizza (11). In another study, participants watching a 60-minute program ate 28% more popcorn than those watching a 30-minute program (16). So the longer the distraction, the more you are likely to eat.
Eating slower helps you eat less and feel fuller. It’s a great tip especially for those who can’t stop eating snacks. Researchers believe that taking about 20 to 30 minutes to complete a meal allows more time for the body to release hormones like peptide YY that promote feelings of fullness (5).
Additionally, eating slowly also allows the stomach more time to notify the brain that you are full. A 2016 review found that individuals who ate at an average pace were 29% less likely to be obese than those who ate quickly. In addition, slow eaters were 42% less likely to be obese (7).
To eat slowly, try using your non-dominant hand. You can also place your bowl at the other end of the table so that reaching it requires a minute or two.
Listen To Your Hunger Cues
Are you wondering how to stop snacking at work? Listening to your hunger cues is how. Sometimes you may eat because you are anxious, bored, or stressed. Eating snacks may provide comfort and help you feel better.
When you snack just because it is snack o’clock or because it gives you comfort, you have lost touch with your body and no longer listen to it. Try asking yourself whether you are hungry before reaching for something to eat. When you are starving, you may experience hunger cues such as problems focusing, stomach growling, and low energy.
This way, you can distinguish between emotional and real, physical hunger (13). Eating only when you are hungry does not mean that you deprive yourself of food. Remember that real hunger does not discriminate. So, if you are craving a specific food, that is an unlikely signal of real hunger.
Listen for these signals before stuffing yourself with a snack. Also, pay attention as you eat so that you know when you are full. Mindful eating helps you acquire better eating behaviors and keeps your energy intake under control (10). Listening to your body puts you in charge and not your emotions or external factors.
Don’t Buy Snacks In Bulk
You might find buying in bulk convenient as it saves you time and may help you save some money, especially when you get great discounts. But when it comes to mindful snacking, stockpiling is not a good idea. When snacks are available to you in bulk, you may find that you can’t stop eating.
Research also supports that buying in bulk can push you to consume more. For example, researchers provided normal-weight college students with a box of 4 different snacks to take home and eat over 3 days in one study. Some were given a small amount, while others were supplied with more significant amounts. Individuals who received double the amount of snacks consumed 81% more calories than those who received normal quantities (12).
Avoid this by buying only the foods you need and do not buy snacks for unexpected visits or future occasions. But if you must buy snacks in bulk, keep them out of sight.
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Deal With The Underlying Cause
The best method on how to stop snacking after dinner or mindlessly at any other time of the day is to deal with the underlying cause. For instance, do you eat because you are bored, anxious, stressed, or lonely and sad? Do you eat because snacks are readily and easily available?
Emotional eating is an actual phenomenon, affecting more women than men (8). Food helps you feel better and temporarily forget your negative emotions. If you do not deal with your feelings, you will keep falling back into the habit of frequent snacking.
Take your time and identify the reason why you cannot keep off snacks. If it is boredom, find activities to keep you busy. You can listen to music, garden, read a book, take afternoon walks or learn a new skill like knitting or crocheting.
If it is stress or anxiety that is your driver to overeat, talk to a family member or friend. You can also consider talking to your doctor. Do not turn to food; instead, find lasting solutions.
Occasionally enjoying a snack poses no health risks. But if you find yourself constantly looking for something to snack on, it may cause weight gain over time, increasing your risk for certain diseases.
Eat proper meals, drink a lot of water and keep yourself distracted to avoid frequent snacking. If a craving sets in, eat fruit instead of candy, cookies, or chips. Be patient with yourself as changing eating behaviors isn’t easy. And remember to seek help if things spiral out of control.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake (2005, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Bottoms Up! The Influence of Elongation on Pouring and Consumption Volume (2003, academic.oup.com)
- Can Package Size Accelerate Usage Volume (2016, papers.ssrn.com)
- Dietary fat, fibre, satiation, and satiety-a systematic review of acute studies (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1 (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of excessive water intake on body weight, body mass index, body fat, and appetite of overweight female participants (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data (2018, bmjopen.bmj.com)
- Emotional eating and obesity in adults: the role of depression, sleep and genes (2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How visibility and convenience influence candy consumption (2002, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: a literature review (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- On the road to obesity: Television viewing increases intake of high-density foods (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Package unit size and amount of food: do both influence intake? (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Protein, weight management, and satiety (2008, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Red potato chips: segmentation cues can substantially decrease food intake (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Television viewing is associated with an increase in meal frequency in humans (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The office candy dish: proximity’s influence on estimated and actual consumption (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Understanding the science of portion control and the art of downsizing (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)