Some of us may enjoy more home-cooked meals and not having to walk too far for a snack, but working close to the refrigerator poses a challenge to maintaining healthy eating habits. Rest assured, there are ways to minimize mindless snacking and filling up on empty calories, even when you can’t socially distance from your kitchen cabinet.
After years of nutrition counseling, I see that that my clients’ judgment about their eating is a big predictor of future behaviors. If you berate yourself for overeating, it can cause you to go down a spiral of feeling bad, which can lead to more emotional eating. On the flip side, being gentle with yourself can help you establish a healthier mindset when it comes to indulgences, and this can allow for a more balanced lifestyle.
I have found that incorporating mindful strategies around eating — which aren’t about judgment — can be very helpful for those struggling with “unconscious” eating. Below are some practical tips that can help you minimize unnecessary snacking and get the most enjoyment from food.
Before grabbing that cookie or bag of chips, stop and ask yourself, “Do I really want this now?” or “Am I craving this food because I’m hungry or because I’m bored or stressed?” Think it through — If you do want a snack, go for it. But if your answer is no, you’ve stopped yourself from excessive nibbling. The idea is to make the choice to eat a conscious decision.
Fill your kitchen with fiber-rich foods
It’s pretty difficult to mindlessly munch on high-fiber foods like vegetables, salads and fruits. That’s because fiber contributes “bulk” and fills you up quickly. Fiber-rich foods also help to keep your blood sugar levels steady, which can help prevent impulsive snacking and overeating at meals.
Don’t bring it home
The decisions you make at the point of purchase greatly predict your ability to stay on track. Simply put, if you bring it home, you will eat it. If you don’t want to derail your diet goals, leave snacks that will sabotage your efforts in the grocery aisle.
Practice portion control
When choosing snacks, avoid bulk-size bags that easily enable mindless nibbling. Go for preportioned snacks, or if you wish to buy larger bags, portion the snacks at home in small bags or containers.
Schedule meal and snack times. It’s important, especially when working from home, to stop and take a break to eat. Even better, plan ahead what it is you will eat for lunch or for a snack. Honoring your food breaks will help you avoid cravings and will give more structure to the day. It will also help you avoid nervous nibbling during stressful work.
Plan for intentional indulgences
Eat at the table, not at your desk
Creating a space to enjoy meals and snacks can help you avoid unconscious eating. Find a table or island or any place where you like to eat and designate it as your eating zone in the house. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Pay attention to the flavors and textures of foods so you can get the most pleasure from your meals.
Get rid of distractions
Close the kitchen
Decide when the kitchen will be “closed for the day,” and shut off the lights and close any doors. This can be very helpful in avoiding nighttime nibbling.
Other tips worth trying
Here are some other tips that can help you with mindless snacking:
Take a tea break
Keep a food and mood journal
Writing down what you eat and how you feel at the time can help you identify triggers and minimize impulsive snacking. Additionally, writing down your daily diet at the start of each day can give you more structure and keep you on track.
Get enough sleep
You can gradually take on these 12 tips by working in one or two strategies into your routine every week. This approach will help you ease into eating more mindfully.