How to kick your secret snacking habit once and for all

Do you reach for the biscuit bowl when you find yourself alone at home? We’ve all done it. Late at night when no-one is watching, or when we get an hour to ourselves. Like we think that the lack of audience somehow makes the snacking less detrimental to our health.

In fact, it can be more detrimental. Compared with actively savouring food, eating in secret can create stress, which means the release of fewer endorphins, the pleasure chemicals that promote digestion. Endorphins help assimilate nutrients and, ultimately, burn calories.

If you’re struggling with secret snacking, you’re not alone. A lot of people have a hard time resisting unhealthy foods, especially when they’re trying to diet. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to put yourself in the best position to resist the temptation to snack.

Read: Longevity expert says snacks weaken our health

Identify temptation times

Do you reach for unhealthy snacks at night while catching up on the latest episode of your favourite show? Or are you tempted to snack for an energy boost at 2pm?

Once you know when you’re likely to crave something you can prepare yourself. Either by prepping a healthy snack ahead of time or just by understanding the feeling when it arises and resisting it.

Know your triggers

Stress, insecurity, fatigue, watching TV, having the house to yourself for an hour … there are so many things that can trigger us to reach for unhealthy snacks.

One study by Glanbia Nutritionals found that a third (33 per cent) of snacking consumers admit to eating more when others aren’t around.

Women who snack are more likely to do so for reasons other than nutrition: over half of respondents (54 per cent) resort to snacking when they are bored. In addition, 41 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women use snacks as a reward or to treat themselves.

Stress is another key factor for females who snack, with 46 per cent of women claiming to use snacks to cope with frustration, compared to just 26 per cent of men.

Identifying the feelings and reasons you tend to reach for unhealthy food can help you work through the emotions before mindlessly grabbing a snack.

Take a drink first

Before opening the cupboards to see what there is to snack on, make yourself a drink or pour yourself a tall glass of water. Often, you’ll drink it and realise you weren’t hungry at all. Even the act of making a cup of tea or something similar can give us that time to think about whether we’re hungry and, if so, what we really want to eat.

Read: Healthy snacks to power you through the day

Find healthy alternatives

You’ve heard this one before but think about the food you crave during these times and come up with a better substitute. If you reach for salty chips, make some popcorn and sprinkle with a little sea salt. If it’s the sweet stuff you crave, make sure you always have fresh and dried fruit on hand and things such as Greek yoghurt to eat with berries and a drizzle of honey.

Find something else to do

Our bad habits develop because of patterns that we create, breaking those patterns can lead to developing healthier habits. If you want something to do with your hands while watching TV, try some knitting. If you snack when you feel the midday slump, try a light stretching routine or go for a walk to get your heart working.

Read: High-fibre snacks for weight loss

Focus on what you want

Do you want to lose a few pounds? Feel better about yourself? Clear up your skin? Think about the big picture and your future goals rather than the here and now. If you want to achieve these things, you must make good choices most of the time. Of course, you can still indulge but make sure it’s what you really want.

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Written by Ellie Baxter

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