Between the office candy dish, your spouse’s stash of crackers in the cupboard, and the vending machines that seem to be everywhere, it’s all too easy to snack when you’re bored or craving a particular flavor. These little indulgences add up over time, which can be bad news for your waistline and your health. With a little forethought and planning, though, you can avoid falling into the mindless eating trap. These six habits can help you avoid snacking when you’re not really hungry.
Go where no food is available
You can’t eat junk food if there’s none around in the first place. Try studying at the library instead of your dorm room, going for a quick walk or bike ride when cravings hit, or running errands during the times you’re usually tempted to graze. If you stay away from temptation and keep yourself busy, you probably won’t even miss snacking.
If you’re bored and want to eat, but you’re not really hungry, pick up a book instead. A good book can distract you from your cravings and keep you occupied until it’s actually mealtime. For this tip to work, choose something that you enjoy reading, instead of something that looks impressive but bores you.
Playing games on your computer or phone can distract you from overindulging in food and give you something to do. Sure, it might not be the most productive use of your time, but neither is mindless eating, and playing solitaire or minesweeper won’t make you gain weight.
Pick up a hobby that uses your hands
If your hands are occupied, you’re not going to snack mindlessly. Try teaching yourself to knit, juggle, or draw. You’ll keep yourself busy, stave off weight gain, and have a cool new skill to show off to people.
Drink tea or coffee
If you’re craving a snack but you’re not hungry, a calorie-free or low-calorie beverage is a good compromise. A hot, satisfying cup of your favorite tea might hit the spot, and coffee is a good midday pick-me-up for only about two calories a cup. Just watch what you put in it – calories from sugar, honey, and creamer add up fast.
Be discerning about your treats
Being a little choosy about what you eat can help you foster better food habits in the long run. Slim people don’t deprive themselves of treats all the time – they just choose the treats that give them the most enjoyment for the calories. When you do indulge, make sure it’s worth it. For instance, a couple of squares of good-quality dark chocolate are far more satisfying than half a bag of Hershey’s kisses. When you’re accustomed to eating treats that are actually special, lower-quality junk foods will start to look less appealing.
Eating mindlessly can damage your relationship with food and make you gain weight without noticing, but you can break the snack habit and teach yourself to eat intentionally and enjoy your food. A little mindfulness goes a long way. By taking up hobbies that don’t involve food, avoiding temptation, and being discerning about the treats you eat, you can stay trim without depriving yourself.