Editor’s note: Each Bite Done Right columns feature work from members of Penn State's Student Nutrition Association.
Have you ever sat down to eat a snack and realized you ate the entire bag of potato chips? Have you had a candy bar during work because you couldn’t stop the hunger until your next meal? Do you skip breakfast, but snack throughout the day? Have you found yourself more likely to snack on something when it’s in your line of sight?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or have similar situations, you are indeed a bad snacker. But you are not alone. Many people also have poor snacking habits, or just pick the wrong types of snacks. However, knowing some tips to make healthy decisions can greatly improve your snacking habits.
One easy way to help yourself from snacking too much throughout the day is by eating regular meals. Your food from the meal will take time to digest in your body, which will help keep you full longer. Eating protein at each meal also helps keep you feeling full longer.
Skipping breakfast is another way for you to continue to snack all day long. By skipping breakfast, you are not providing your body with energy that it needs in order to function properly for the day. Your body will use its stored energy reserves and cause you to snack later on because your body needs to restore the energy it used. Eating breakfast can help you decrease your appetite until your next meal and provide yourself with energy.
Following portion controls when snacking is key. Eating too much of something can cause you to gain weight or make you miss a meal, causing you to snack again later. Plus, eating from the bag or box is not a good idea. You are more likely to overconsume because of mindless eating. You don’t realize exactly how much you consumed — and it might just lead to that empty bag of potato chips.
Hydration is another factor that can lead to bad snacking behaviors. Sometimes people assume that when they get a hunger sensation, it means they are hungry. Generally this is true. However, it can also mean that you are thirsty. Mixing up these signals can lead people to eat again when they don’t need to. Some people drink fluids to stay hydrated, even without feelings of thirst. Most individuals rely on their thirst in order to stay hydrated, but your body can cause you to feel hungry due to dehydration. A good rule for whenever you have a hunger sensation is to take a drink of water and wait 20 minutes. If you still feel hungry, then chances are you weren’t thirsty, but if the hunger goes away you know you were thirsty.
A simple way to not snack on junk food is to simply not buy it. I know sometimes it’s hard to do when you enter the grocery store and have to walk by the junk food to get to the other items you need. Not having junk food will force you to eat the healthier options you have at home.
Making your own snacks can also help you kick your bad snacking habits. When you create your own snacks, you have the power to make them healthy; try using reduced amounts of sugar, salt and fat. Planning out your snacks and bringing them with you will help you from searching out an unhealthy option wherever you are.
These are just some of the tricks you can use to stop those horrible snacking habits. Next time you are hungry for a snack, try healthy choices such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk products, or unsalted or low-sodium nuts.
Kaitlin Kulp is a senior majoring in nutritional sciences-dietetics options at Penn State. She is the public relations/social chair for the Student Nutrition Association.