6 Smart Snacking Tips That’ll Help You Stave Off Hanger (and Preserve Your Sanity)
Remote learning for little ones, Zoom meetings, home upkeep, incessant dog walking, the deafening construction going on next door, and a near-constant demand for homemade meals = a life lived on the brink of constant hanger… if you aren’t well-stocked with snacks.
Snacking has always been the key to staying (relatively) sane, but recently, the stakes have gotten higher. The longer we work from home, spending day in and day out attached to our laptops and simultaneously managing what feels like the weight of the world, the more essential it is to have easy access to noshes that we know will keep our energy—and our mood—up. According to a new study from the International Food Information Council, one in three consumers report snacking more often since COVID-19 pandemic began, the majority (34 percent) saying that they snack multiple times a day. Make no mistake—just because we’re spending more time at home doesn’t mean that we’re any less busy. Quite the opposite, in fact: the IFIC’s research showed that the majority of Americans (63 percent) reported convenience as the reason they’re consuming more packaged snacks.
But as with anything, there is an art to smart snacking, meaning finding foods that will cure your hanger, leave you satisfied, and give you the motivation you need to tackle your to-do list.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with snacking,” says Amy Lee, MD, a board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine, member of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists and the American Board of Obesity Medicine, and Head of Nutrition for Nucific. “It is the type of foods you snack on that can help you maintain your mood, mental clarity, and metabolism—or break them.” For starters, Dr. Lee recommends avoiding processed snack foods packed with simple sugars. “It’s about being smart with your snacks and making every little thing you eat count,” she says.
Here are Dr. Lee’s top tips for smarter snacking. (Because your sanity is worth it.)
According to Dr. Lee, most times people snack it’s because of boredom—or simply the need to do something with their hands. “Next time, before grabbing that snack, stop and question if you really need the snack…or are you just bored or anxious?” she says.
Once you’ve determined that you truly need a snack, try to eat something that will leave you feeling satisfied and energized. “If you’re hungry and your body needs a quick pick-me-up, focus on foods that are satiating or at least hold you over until your next meal without all the drowsiness-inducing sugar.” Protein is a great choice. Try hard boiled eggs, veggies with hummus, or a small protein bar containing the essential amino acids.
“The act of eating little bits can help extend the time of snacking, which can also reinforce the idea to the brain that you are eating,” explains Lee. “Don’t ‘inhale’ your food in one big gulp, because your brain takes time to register that you are putting food into the body (this can take up to 20 minutes!) to make that connection.” As an example of grazing-worthy snacks, Lee recommends making a healthy version of trail mix by combining variations of nuts, dark chocolate chips, and dried fruits. “Even cutting up a protein bar into smaller bite-size pieces to make it last longer works,” she says.
Use cucumber slices in place of potato chips to dip into your favorite things such as guacamole and hummus, or celery and carrots with a couple of tablespoons of nut butter. Why not add a little fiber and good fats when you snack?
It may seem silly, but if you set a time to allow yourself to snack, you can save yourself from unintentionally overeating or snacking on junk. “Also, by scheduling, you won’t lose track of time and find yourself ravenously hungry, which can result in bad choices,” Dr. Lee explains.
Replace unhealthy options (cookies, chips, crackers, candies) with fresh fruits and veggies, protein bars, and nuts so you won’t give in to your thoughts when it’s time to snack. Meal prep your heart out: cook up a batch of hard boiled eggs for yourself on Sunday so you can snack on them all week, slice and dice veggies, or make cheese and fruit snack packs ahead of time.