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Crisps, biscuits, chocolate, and wine. These snacks can be the downfall of many of us trying to make healthier choices with regard to what we eat. There is nothing wrong with many of these items, in moderation, but there lies the issue…IN MODERATION.
Most snack foods are made to be moreish. They are developed in laboratories and tested on the public to find the right balance of fat, sugar and flavour that has you reaching for more. If you are looking to reduce or remove these foods from your diet then here are a few helpful tips to think about before reaching for the biscuit tin.
Are You Really Hungry?
Our bodies can be a confusing thing sometimes. Rather than telling you what it needs, it just tells you it is hungry. Need water? Nope, hungry! Bored? Nope, hungry! It’s no wonder we reach for a chocolate bar on an evening.
However, before you do, take a few minutes to really think about whether you’re hungry or if your body trying to tell you something else.
Are you bored?
Does your brain just need some stimulation? Try finding something to do that engages your brain and you enjoy. Food is an easy way for our brains to activate our feel-good hormone, dopamine, which is why you may confuse boredom with hunger.
Our lifestyles have us so used to putting on the TV on an evening to help us switch off that we don’t realise that we’re not actually enjoying it. Instead try reading a book, playing a game, doing a puzzle or some exercise, all these activities give you a sense of accomplishment and increase dopamine levels.
Are You Thirsty?
Just like boredom, sometimes your brain actually needs a drink but instead tells you that it’s hungry. An easy way to check this is to grab a glass of water then wait 15-20 minutes, if you still feel hungry then grab yourself a snack.
A few simple ways to prevent this confusion is to stay hydrated throughout the day. Make sure water is the first thing you drink on a morning, yes – before that morning coffee. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, spend the day drinking little and often by keeping a water bottle with you at all times – I have this *2.2-litre water bottle on my desk all day (also makes a great weight).
Lastly, check your pee! The best indicator of how hydrated you are is in the colour of your urine, as demonstrated here.
Grab An Apple
Some say that the best way to judge whether you’re hungry is to decide whether you could manage a full meal. If you could, then eat a meal but if you couldn’t then you’re not hungry enough. While this might work for some, for others it could lead to being hangry and making less than optimal meal choices later in the day.
If you’re genuinely wanting something small then reach for some fruit, vegetable sticks or another healthy snack such as a portion of nuts. Try to choose something that actually makes you chew rather than something that takes less effort to eat, such as smoothies, milkshakes or ice cream.
Prioritise Protein At Meal Times
One way to help with snack cravings is to make sure you are getting enough protein at your main meal times. Make sure you have a source of protein at every meal, as well as fibre, as this will keep you fuller for longer.
Eating less frequently has been shown to potentially improve satiety and reduce hunger, meaning you’re less likely to want to snack if you eat three nutrient-dense meals a day.
Bake Don’t Buy
A general rule in my house is that if we want treats then I have to bake them. Biscuits, muffins, cakes and brownies are mostly homemade as and when we fancy them. Firstly, this means I’ve had to expend energy to actually make them and secondly, it controls what actually goes into these products. I can tweak how much sugar goes into them or add extra fruit, vegetables or fibre so even though they are a snack, I can get as many nutrients into them as I can.
It’s not just sweet goods but also savoury ones. A few of my favourite savoury snacks include roasted chickpeas, kale crisps, roasted pumpkin seeds and seeded crackers.
Just remember, there is nothing wrong with the occasional baked good but if you have it every day then it is no longer occasional!
What About The Wine?
Oh, the wine.
I completely understand the desire to relax on the sofa after a hard day’s work with a glass in hand to just try to switch off. Again, like other snacks, this is completely fine in moderation but when it’s every day it can become an issue.
What many people do not realise is that alcohol cannot be stored in the body so the body prioritises its metabolism. This means that it will basically ignore any food you’ve eaten before or after consuming alcohol in order to get it out of your system quicker. Alcohol contains energy, calories, and there is 7kcal per 1g of alcohol. So, that glass of wine on an evening with dinner is slowing down the metabolism of that food, ultimately resulting in that meal being stored as fat on the body.
A few tips for reducing your wine consumption
Only drink out of the house. This is actually a technique my husband has adopted (I don’t really drink, at all) and it’s working for him tremendously. If you only have an alcoholic drink when you are out of the house then you are reducing the opportunities to drink and making it more of a special occasion.
If you’re a white or rose drinker then try a spritzer instead. Mix half a glass with soda or sparkling water, you’ll still be drinking the same volume of fluid but with only half the alcohol. You just then need to keep to the single glass and not two because you’ve “had less wine”.
Ask yourself “why?”. Why do you want a glass of wine? If you want it to unwind then try replacing it with something like meditation or yoga. Really think about how it benefits you, especially the morning after – one of the reasons I rarely drink wine is the headaches and groggy feelings I get the next day, it’s just not worth it.
Try alternatives such as squashes, herbal or fruit teas. Again, if you drink it to unwind then look at a cup of camomile tea which has relaxing properties.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
We all tend to try and punish ourselves a little too often. Yes, if weight loss is one of your goals then you do need to think about what you’re eating and how much. The snacks we’ve all come to know and love are ingrained into our culture but that doesn’t mean we need to be controlled by them.
They can be part of a healthy balanced diet, however, the key there is balance. Remember, making healthier choices isn’t all about losing weight, it’s about improving your overall lifestyle. If having the occasional biscuit with a cuppa or bag of crisps with a movie makes you happy, then do it…just don’t do it every day.