Whether it's making too many trips to the office candy bowl or eating an entire bag of movie-theater popcorn, snacking is easy to blame when it comes to weight gain. In reality, snacking is an important tool in weight management, but the key is mindfulness when munching.
"It's important to stay mindful and separate your snack from multitasking," says Judy Simon, UW clinical instructor and clinic dietitian at
UW Medical Center, Roosevelt Clinic. "Spend time thinking about what you're going to eat."
Quick and Healthy Snack Ideas
- Seasonal fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries
- Air-popped popcorn
- Whole wheat crackers with cheese or avocado
- Greek yogurt (high in protein and calcium)
- Vegetables and hummus
Simon explained that questioning the need to snack is a good first step: "Are you hungry? Are you bored or stressed? Tempted by co-workers?" A rumbling stomach and a dip in energy are cues that it may be time to have some food. Feeling bored or stressed may be better managed by a stretch or a quick walk. Simon also recommends drinking a glass of water before eating since thirst is sometimes hard to distinguish from hunger.
Being more mindful is easy when it's broken down into simple tricks: Put the snack on a plate or a paper towel instead of eating out of a big bowl or bag. Turn away from the computer screen. Start small to prevent eating too much. Create stopping points by portioning out snacks into smaller containers. Remember to savor the first and last bites, which tend to be the best.
What you eat is just as important as how you eat it. Being thoughtful about eating a bag of potato chips is better than unconsciously eating the whole bag, but making a healthy food choice in the beginning is best.
"If you're looking for savory, try air-popped popcorn for munch and crunch instead of chips," advised Simon. "When you actually make it, you're more invested in the snack, which makes you more mindful about it."
Simon also warned about "liquid snacks" since some beverages can contain as many calories as a main meal. A large mocha with all the trimmings can contain more than 500 calories, but a small mocha minus the whipped cream is more reasonable for a snack at around 120 calories.
Lastly, absolutely no snacks during the day can lead to overeating at mealtime. Instead of not snacking, use snack time as an opportunity to get some good quality nutrition throughout the day.
"Think about what you'll be doing during the day and build in time for a healthy snack," advised Simon. "After three to four hours, it is reasonable to eat something if you're hungry."