Ever sat in front of the telly and eaten an entire bag of crisps when you weren’t hungry in the slightest? Or you always eat a snack in the afternoon at your desk, just because it’s snack time?
The world is divided on snacking. Some nutritionists will say that it’s better to graze all day rather than eat three square meals, while others think we should abstain from snacking entirely. Perhaps it’s not so much a question of if you should snack, but whether you are snacking for the right reasons – and making the right choices, for you.
We chatted to clinical psychologist, mind & body expert and ambassador for wonderfulpistachios.com.au on how to approach snacking in a mindful way.
What are some of the common triggers for snacking (other than hunger!)
Snacking behaviours often have an emotional connection and cravings can be closely linked to a range of memories including what makes us feel happy. The feel-good factor of snacks can trigger positive memories and a sensation of happiness so it’s no surprise that snacking emerged as a leading source of cravings. It’s hard to avoid temptation in social situations where unhealthy treats are involved. Social snacking is a powerful tool that can positively influence those around us to make nutritionally wise choices.
How can we train ourselves to snack less or to make the right choices?
Your snacking habits often link directly to your personality and mood, so it’s important to know what type of snacker you are. If you’re a distracted snacker, adopt some smart strategies to help you slow down and focus on what you’re eating. Try eating with your left hand for more portion control – you’ll be much more aware of how much you’re consuming. Alternatively, challenge yourself to use chopsticks. If you’re an emotional snacker, go for nutritious foods that boost your energy and make you feel good like a healthy handful of nuts, berries or avocado. For the snack stashers who hide their snacks, leaving a bowl of empty wrappers or leftover pistachio shells in those hiding places will provide a visual cue about the amount you’ve previously eaten. In-shell pistachios also promote mindful snacking because you need to crack open the shells so it takes you longer to eat them. Whatever your snack personality, finding clever techniques to adapt your snacking behaviour can help encourage mindful eating habits.
How important is mindfulness when it comes to making the right food choices?
Wouldn’t it be great if you ultimately became the expert of your body’s needs? Learning how to snack mindfully can help you create a healthy relationship with your food, mind and body. We need to accept our cravings and recognise when we’re experiencing them but also arm ourselves with snacks that are wise and nutritious.
What are some effective techniques for distracting yourself from snacking?
It’s important to be in-tune with your body and the way to do this is to listen so that it can tell you what it needs. Take hunger for example. When you’re snacking, learn to know how it feels when you’re comfortably full. Find ways of slowing down your snack intake, pause to savour the flavours and think about how full you really feel.
How can we enjoy our food more and not feel guilty about our choices?
The Western world seems to have gone nutrition mad and we’re often told to quit certain foods, adhere to strict principles and follow the latest diet fads. If you’re thinking of changing certain snack habits or eating patterns, allow yourself time to change and don’t try a major lifestyle overhaul in one week. For example, if you feel your body is calling out for better nutrition, set one goal per week. Try starting with a healthy breakfast each morning or by swapping your afternoon snack with a more nutritious and balanced one. It’s also important to accept that no-one’s perfect. You don’t need to suffer deprivation, guilt, fear of food or anxiety over treating yourself every now and then. Embrace your cravings but remember to “portion control” and savour the flavours to slow down your intake.