We asked members how their eating habits had changed during the lockdown, and the message came back loud and clear that snacking had been a challenge! 50% said they were snacking more. Reasons may vary – anxiety, boredom, kitchen too accessible, no routine – but the result is the same, it's not helping your weight loss! So with this in mind, we've put together some tips to help.
When is a 'snack' a 'treat'?
First, let's define what we are talking about. The terms 'snack' and 'treat' are often interchangeable – but in our view, the two are very different. Snacking in itself is not a problem – providing the food you eat is part of a well-balanced calorie-controlled diet. The problem is when we make poor food choices that cause us to eat too many calories. This leads to the question – when is a 'snack' really a 'treat'?
Here are our definitions:
Snack – a small meal which provides some nutritional benefit and can be a healthy addition to your daily diet.
Treat – a food with little to no nutritional benefit, which should be eaten in moderation.
Tips to manage too much 'treat' snacking
If your snacking tends to lean more towards the 'treat' side and you want to regain some control, here are some ideas to try.
- Out of sight out of mind! This really does work! Keep treat foods where you don't see them every time you walk in the kitchen or open the fridge. Make it awkward to get to them – at the back of a cupboard, on the top shelf or in another room – anywhere requiring a bit more effort!
- Pre-portion – portion treats into sensible servings to encourage you to stick to one portion. Or if possible buy already portioned for example a multi pack of crisps instead of a large sharer bag, or individual 'fun-sized' chocolate bars.
- Limit occasions – if your daily snacking usually ends in you overeating, allow yourself a treat every other day instead. Also plan for it – add it to your food diary at the start of the day so you know how many calories you have left to play with.
- Identify why you're eating these foods – stop and ask yourself how you are feeling – can you identify the emotion? Are you bored? Hungry? Anxious? Wanting a reward? Identifying your trigger is the first step to making a change.
- When you have the why, work on the what – if you're bored, think what else can you do to distract yourself from eating? Wanting to reward yourself, think what other options are there?
- Write an 'if, then' plan – write a list of things you will do when the urge to snack hits. For example, "If I want a biscuit at 11am, then I will eat a piece of fruit first to take away the craving". Or "If I go to grab a chocolate bar at 4pm, then I will head out for my daily walk and listen to my favourite music". Or "if I feel bored and find myself in the kitchen, then I will do [insert an activity you've been meaning to get to] instead".
How to snack smart
- Your snack should provide good nutrients – protein or fibre (as both help us feel fuller), 1 of your 5-a-day, or calcium.
- Portion control – around 200 calories is appropriate for a snack.
- Schedule your snack to avoid energy dips (and cravings) – eat little and regular.
Click here for some healthy sweet and savoury suggestions
The 80:20 rule
We should aim to eat well at least 80% of the time – aim to get good quality calories from healthy, natural foods. But being realistic, cutting out everything we enjoy rarely works for long. So if you do fancy something less healthy, keep it small (less than 100 kcals) and not too often. Here are some of our favourite treats for less than 100 calories.
Snacking isn't bad – just snack smart! Remember – no food in itself is bad, it's the quantity and frequency with which we eat it that has the impact on our health and weight. As always, the answer is moderation!
Nutritionist Sophie Edgington (ANutr), BSc Nutrition is passionate about practising evidence-based nutrition and debunking the multitude of inaccurate myths that so readily surround food and health information. Her goal is to ensure we are all able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding our health.