How to Snack Less While Working from Home
by Mallory Creveling
First off: It is 100% OK to have a snack when you need one. If you’re hungry, a bite can hold you over until your next main meal, so you’re not feeling ravenous by the time you grab more food. But if you feel like you’re constantly heading to the kitchen out of boredom, procrastination, stress, or otherwise, following a few key strategies may help you snack less—particularly when you’re working from home. Here, Illa Garcia, R.D., CEO of The Millennial Nutritionist, offers tips for cutting back on snacking when you need to reassess your habits.
Figure out why you’re reaching for food.
Do you feel hunger sensations, like a growling stomach or changes in your energy levels? If yes, definitely reach for a snack, Garcia says. If no, ask yourself if you’re stressed, sad, upset, or having a hard time with work and want a distraction.
“Don’t deny yourself a snack if you’re hungry, but if you’re not, try to find a different outlet for those emotions,” Garcia says. A walk around the block, journaling about your day and your emotions, or even talking to someone about your stress, might offer a good substitute for addressing those emotions that push you toward snacking.
Also, Garcia says many people eat in the evening out of habit. For those aiming to curb that tendency, try to figure out your trigger—maybe it’s watching TV or having a sweet late at night. See if there’s something else you can do at that time, like taking a stretch break or playing a game with your kids.
Stash food out of sight.
If you can work outside of the kitchen, that might keep you from consistently reaching for snacks, Garcia says. “The more you see food, the more likely you are to eat,” she explains.
However, if your home office is also your kitchen table, simply try to put snacks out of your line of view. Placing high-calorie food options on the top or bottom pantry shelves and off countertops is a smart place to start, Garcia suggests.
Check your sleep.
Research shows an association between lack of sleep and overeating, as well as link between longer, quality rest and a reduction in appetite and cravings toward sweet and salty foods.
While it can often feel easier said than done to get the coveted seven to nine hours of shut-eye, aim for the amount of rest that works best for your body and see if it helps you cut back on snacking. You might feel more energized during the day and less likely to reach for mid-meal bites.
Garcia also suggests sticking to a sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day so your body gets into a better rhythm, which can help both your sleep and your eating habits, she says.
Make sure you’re eating enough at mealtimes.
Double check that you’re feeling full and satisfied after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to ensure you’re getting enough calories. This might stop you from feeling the need to munch between those meals, Garcia says.
One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting enough food is by filling your plate with a lean protein, complex carb source, and one to two servings of fruits and veggies. “That’s a well-rounded meal,” Garcia says. Protein will help keep you full, as will a little fat, and carbs will help satiate you, she adds.
You also want your snacks to be satisfying. So, aim for one with a little protein and carbs, too. Garcia recommends mini bites like berries and peanut butter, bell peppers and cheese, or a fruit smoothie with some protein powder or yogurt and maybe even some leafy greens thrown into the mix.
Taking the time to actually sit down for your meals and snacks, without distractions, may also help you cut back on frequent snacking, Garcia says. Next time you grab something to munch on, sit at the table, keep the phone and computer off, and focus on the food in front of you. Aim to eat mindfully, paying attention to the tastes and textures, rather than eating while working or doing other activities.
At least one scientific review looked at the benefits of mindful eating and intuitive eating (which involves getting more in tune to those hunger sensations and feelings of fullness). The research revealed that eating with this mindful focus may help you address any potentially problematic eating behaviors.
The bottom line: You know your body best. If you need a snack, go for it and enjoy it. If it’s becoming a problem, pay attention to what makes you reach for a snack so you can better understand your habits and intercept them.