5 Mind Tricks to Help You Cut Back on Snacking
by Tehrene Firman
There are so many different reasons why you snack. Sometimes you’re legitimately hungry between meals (which can happen when your plate doesn't include the filling and satisfying combo of protein, carbohydrates, and fat), or other times it’s because you’re simply bored. One thing is for sure, though. No matter why you’re snacking, cutting back isn’t easy.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with snacking when you’re choosing healthy choices that nourish your body, Brianna Bernard, a nutrition coach, personal trainer, and Isopure athlete, says reaching for highly-processed options like cookies and chips only fuel your snack cravings further.
“Some snack out of boredom or mindless eating, while others simply don’t consume enough nutrient-rich calories earlier in the day, leaving them legitimately hungry in the evenings,” Bernard says. “But the more sugar and salt you snack on, the more you crave them, which makes kicking bad habits more difficult.”
Getting into the habit of overdoing it on those highly-processed snacks can seriously impact your health and well-being over time, too. “Because we tend to overeat foods high in sugar and sodium, we can add hundreds—if not thousands—of extra calories onto our day in the form of unhealthy snacks,” Bernard says. “In addition, anyone who tends to consume the majority of these foods between 8 p.m. and midnight, when they’re moving less, is storing them as fat as opposed to burning those calories for energy.”
If you’ve been wanting to cut back on snacking, you’re in luck. There is a handful of mind tricks you can use that will help, and here are Bernard’s favorites.
1. Use Smaller Plates and Bowls
Have you ever noticed how the antique plates at your grandma’s house are a whole lot smaller than the modern options at yours? Over the years, portion sizes have expanded exponentially. Not only with the sizes of plates and bowls being manufactured, but also the average size of many foods you buy at the grocery store, which has grown by up to 138 percent since the ’70s.
In order to cut back on these portion sizes when you’re snacking, Bernard recommends eating like people did in simpler times and portioning out your food on smaller plates and bowls. “Also, don’t eat straight out of the bag or container,” she says. Even though you’ll have less food, it won’t feel like it. Using this tactic tricks you into being just as full and satisfied after finishing as you would have been eating off a larger plate.
2. Keep Unhealthy Foods Out of Your House
If your cupboards are stocked with chips, cookies, and other unhealthy snacks, you’re going to wind up eating them. That’s a fact. “But the opposite is also true. If you have healthy food in your home, you’re going to eat that, too,” Bernard says. Instead of having to fight off the urge to reach for one of those unhealthy snacks, you’ll instead have a kitchen loaded with wholesome options that will fuel you whenever you’re hungry.
Bernard says the key is making it extremely difficult to eat unhealthy and extremely easy to eat well. Stock up on some staples to get started, like chopped veggies and hummus, pre-portioned nuts (like almonds and cashews), fruit of all kinds (like oranges, bananas, watermelon, grapes, and strawberries), and homemade roasted chickpeas for a little chip-like crunch.
3. Slow Down When You’re Eating
This one can be tricky. When you’re snacking, it’s not uncommon to eat quickly—especially if you’re snacking on something delicious. But slowing down can be really beneficial in cutting back on how much you’re consuming. “Completely chew and swallow each bite before taking another bite,” Bernard says.
When you slow down and add in a little mindfulness, you’ll be better able to recognize hunger and fullness cues. It’s also helpful if you’re not doing anything else while you’re snacking, whether that’s watching TV or scrolling through your Instagram feed. That way, you can put all your focus on your food and zone in on the taste and texture of every bite.
4. Up Your Water Intake with Tea
Drinking water throughout the day is one of the most effective ways to cut back on snacking. A lot of the time, your brain confuses hunger and thirst signals, causing you to grab another snack when you actually just need some water. That’s why aside from keeping a water bottle on hand at all times, Bernard also recommends winding down at night with some soothing tea.
“I like to drink hot decaffeinated tea in the evening when I’ve already consumed all of my calories for the day but I’m still feeling hungry or snacky,” she says. “Good Earth's Sweet & Spicy Caffeine-Free Tea is my go-to. It fills me up, and the orange peel and cinnamon flavor tricks my mind into thinking I ate something sweet.”
5. Brush Your Teeth More Often
One of the most simple ways to trick your brain into snacking less is by brushing your teeth or using mouthwash more frequently during the day—especially when you do so after meals or snacks, says Bernard. Brushing your teeth or using mouthwash alerts your brain that snacktime is over, helping you avoid reaching for anything else. And if you were to grab another snack post-brush, you’d be grossed out. That minty flavor doesn’t pair well with most foods (think: drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth!), so you won’t be craving another snack anyway.