If you’re spending more time at home than usual, you might be more aware that your kitchen—and fridge, and pantry, and candy drawer—is right around the corner. That can be tough for a lot of people trying to maintain their healthy eating goals.
“How we think affects how we function, and this is especially true when it comes to mindful eating,” explains MOBE Guide Alessandra. “If we think it’s okay to sneak in a few extra high sugary snacks a day, we will. If we think about the positive impact of whole foods and about how good we will feel, we will eat them.”
The key is to set yourself up for success.
What’s a snack to you? Anything you eat other than mealtime? Food that comes in a bag and might not be very nutritious?
Snacks can actually play a nutritional role in your diet. Ideally, they’re a mix of healthy foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. And, provide just enough nourishment to prevent you from getting so hungry that you gorge at your next meal.1
So, how do you stop just enough from turning into too much? We look to behavioral research for some possible answers.
Start by tidying up.
Clutter has the psychological effect of making us feel out of control. That, in turn, makes it harder to suppress our urge to eat.
One study compared people’s snacking behaviors in a kitchen strewn with paperwork, boxes, and other clutter with snacking in a tidy kitchen environment. People working in clutter ate twice as many cookies as those in a tidy kitchen.
Researchers concluded that a mindset encouraging “being in control” helps moderate unhealthy eating.2
Stock up on crunch.
Snacks you can really sink your teeth into may help moderate how much you eat. Researchers call it the “crunch effect.” In other words, you could feel satisfied quicker snacking on carrots, pretzels, apples, nuts, and other foods with a snap.
Make it easier for yourself.
Experts call it “choice architecture.” It’s all based on setting up your kitchen so healthy choices are the easiest choices.
Consider this experiment: A study used break time at a large event to track trends in how people selected a bakery item or fruit.
Visitors at table #2 consumed 30% less baked goods and 85% more fruit than visitors at table #1.3
It’s all about making the healthiest snack the easiest to grab. So, get yourself an old-fashioned apple slicer, wash and stem some grapes, and put the cookies in the back of the pantry.
Get support from your colleagues.
Science shows that if you’re around someone who overeats, you’re more likely to do the same. Even if your companion isn’t in the room, what they leave behind affects you.
Family member drop a candy wrapper on the counter? Someone leave the cookie package out? These visual cues make it hard not to crave what you’ve missed.
Ask for support from the people you live and now work with.3
Use your imagination.
Your brain is one of your most powerful allies when it comes to snacking habits. Try a three-step practice called “mental contrasting” to help when a craving hits.4
Researchers believe this process works because it both boosts motivation and forces you to problem-solve in advance.
You may be closer to your fridge and pantry for more hours a week than you’ve ever been. But with these household tools in your arsenal, there should be no snack attack you can’t handle.
Work on your nutrition goals with one-to-one support from a MOBE Guide. Get started today.
1. Valentine Y. Njike et al, “Snack Food, Satiety, and Weight,” Advances in Nutrition 7, no. 5 (September 2016): 866-87, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.009340.
2. Lenny R. Vartanian et al, “Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments,” Environment and Behavior, (January 2016): Online First http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2711870.
3. Pelle G. Hansen et al, “Apples Versus Brownies: A Field Experiment in Rearranging Conference Snacking Buffets to Reduce Short-Term Energy Intake,” Journal of Foodservice Business Research 19, no. 1 (February 2016): 122-130, https://doi.org/10.1080/15378020.2016.1129227.
4. Marieke A. Adriaanse et al, “When Planning is Not Enough: Fighting Unhealthy Snacking Habits by Mentally Contrasting With Implementation Intentions (MCII), European Journal of Social Psychology 40, no. 7 (November 2010): 1227-1293, https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.730.