How to Stop Eating 24/7 When You're Stuck at Home
Turns out, staying at home has most of us snacking more than we did pre-COVID-19. A recent survey from Suzy and New Hope Network found that 58% of us are snacking more thanks to stay at home orders. But snacking isn't all bad. We tend to think of potato chips and candy bars (or nonstop pantry raiding) but there are plenty of ways to make snacks fit in your diet, help keep you full and add nutrition. Here, I'm answering common snacking questions and offering some of my top quarantine snacking tips.
How do I stop eating constantly?
Two things to remember here:
- Don't let yourself get too hungry
- Make a snack that's actually satisfying.
Think about it. You forget to eat. You're feeling super hungry. You reach for a handful of something in your pantry. And then another. And another...until the whole bag is gone. Getting too hungry leads to overeating and you may still not be satisfied when your snack bender is over. Try to avoid that in the first place and check in with your hunger more often.
When you start to feel hungry, make yourself something satisfying. Think before you eat. Reach for something that has protein, fat and fiber (or at least two of the three satisfying nutrients). Think yogurt with berries, dried apricots and pistachios, an apple with nut butter or a hard-boiled egg with a clementine. These more balanced snacks take longer to digest and will help keep your energy levels up and your hunger levels down. Snack win! (Try these 10 high-protein snack ideas when you need more snacking inspiration.)
Why do I eat all day long—am I just bored?
Possibly. Being at home more means snacks can feel like a "break" in your day. If you think you're eating more out of boredom, try taking little breaks in other ways—a quick walk, checking in with a friend, some yoga stretches, a cup of tea. But it's important to note, that stress and not sleeping enough actually increase your appetite (annoying, but true). Here are some tips for helping keep your stress hormones in check. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night and try your best to manage your stress.
How often should I be snacking?
There's no right answer. You need to come up with a flexible eating schedule that works for you. I personally like 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, but everyone is different. If your dinner ends up being late (or early) you may want to adjust your afternoon snack. Some people prefer 3 square meals a day, and some people like lots of smaller meals and snacks.
Ideally, snacks are helping you get through from meal to meal and not replacing your meals. If you're snacking so much that you're not hungry when dinner or lunch rolls around, it may be time to cut back. But always let your hunger guide you—our bodies are not machines, so each day will look a little bit different.
What are your portion control tips?
Imagine that you used to go out for ice cream when you wanted a little something sweet, but now you have a carton in the freezer and you're finding it's hard not to eat it every day. What should you do? Well my advice would be, go ahead and let yourself eat it every day (I know it may sound crazy, just hear me out). As soon as you tell yourself you "shouldn't" eat the ice cream, you're going to want it more.
So, if you're looking to not overeat, you need to give yourself permission to eat food! Also, I don't recommend eating straight from the container—since that tends to be a little more mindless. Put a portion on a plate (or bowl or cup), enjoy it, and then if you still want more when you're done, have some.
What snacks are good for kids?
Kids love snacks. Some kind of flexible eating schedule with your kids can really help. You don't want their snacks to disrupt their meals. The best snacks depend on what age your kids are. If you're buying them snack foods, look for a little bit of fiber, some protein, not too much added sugar (try our best healthy packaged snacks for kids). For homemade snacks try: Smoothies, whole-grain cereals, fruit, cheese, yogurt and get more ideas for healthy kids' snacks.
If I'm going to eat chocolate, what's the healthiest kind and how much can I have?
The darker the better, as far as getting more antioxidants and flavanols. Good for your heart, good for your brain, good for stress reduction. Learn more about why chocolate is so good for you.
An ounce of dark chocolate might be your healthiest option, but it's not going to be satisfying if you really want a cookie or you don't like dark chocolate. There's room in your diet for healthier treats and for the real deal.
Should I be drinking water with my snacks?
Sure! There's a rumor out there that you shouldn't drink water and eat at the same time, but that's not based in science. In fact, drinking enough water is important to keep you regular and can help keep your energy up. Your snack break could be a good reminder to keep hydrated. But if you're not thirsty and you're staying hydrated throughout the day, you don't have to force yourself to drink while you snack.