My teenage son had finished breakfast and less than one hour later was neck-deep in the pantry that is carefully stocked to reduce grocery store trips. “Get out of the pantry” I screeched!
Was he hungry already? No! Like many of us, he was looking to step away from the work at his computer and snacking his way through the pantry seemed to be a good distraction.
Snacking is great! I am all for snacking. Eating every two to three hours throughout the day is a way to curb hunger before the “hangry”, make better food choices, and sustain energy even when on lockdown.
If you are a grazer, don’t feel bad about it. Just make sure you are well stocked with nutritious foods that boost your health and energy! Grazing is actually genetic.
Have you ever wondered why some people can go hours without eating and be just fun while others turn into Dr. Jeckyl? Their genes could have the answer. The gene (MC4R) is associated with appetite regulation and is one gene on the nutrition genetic profile I have completed with hundreds of athletic individuals. Certain variants associated with this gene could mean you are more likely to be hungry more often.
No matter what your genetic make-up, being prepared to snack with intention will help curb the urge to snack simply because you are looking for something else to do.
Here are eight behaviors to help shift mindless munching into intentional nourishment:
1. Eat in a way you feel proud of.
No apologies or excuses. Including fruits and vegetables at each meal or noshing on carrots as an afternoon snack is something to be proud. Devouring a bag of chips while you make dinner for the family probably isn’t your proudest nutrition moment.
2. Pause Before Eating
Pause and take a moment to ask what intention this food is serving. Place no judgement on the intention. It could simply be that it is time for something crunchy. Maybe it is time for a apple to fill the energy gap between breakfast and lunch.
3. Acknowledge that food can offer comfort and nutrition
Comfort food and nutritious food are not mutally exclusively. A warm soup on cold day is a gread example. Sprinkling that soup with cheese delivers flavor comforts as well as protein.
4. Think of your snacks as mini meals
Think of snacking as a good opportunity to sneak in more nutrients. Take advantage of your snacking time by applying a fruit first approach. I often speak to having a strong nutrition baselayer. Fruit is a nutrient-dense baselayer food to eat two to three times per day to help you meet nutrient needs like fiber and vitamin C, baselayer nutrients that make for a strong foundational diet.
5. Follow this simple equation for an energy-sustaining & hunger satiating snack:
Fiber + Protein and/or Healthy Fat = Nourishing Snack
6. Listen to your body for hunger cues
Are you reaching for a snack because you’re really hungry or because you’re sad, bored, frustrated, or tired? Check back on #2 above. Is it hunger you are feeding or a feeling? If it is a feeling, ask yourself if a walk outside or journaling might be more impactful than eating.
7. Use a “What to Eat When Framework”
Plan ahead what you will eat, when you will eat it, and how you will make sure you have it. Offer a simple nutrition guide and workbook to help you think this through. It is a simple yet powerful table that helps you make a routine of healthy snacking. Download it here
Ultimately, we know what to eat. Using your inner dietitian and common sense will help you answer the question of what to eat when. Also, be kind to yourself and do the best you can to stay healthy.