For many of us, life has been uprooted by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving us stuck at home and often seeking comfort in food. Lack of routine and unlimited kitchen access coupled with added anxiety and stress is the perfect storm for mindless eating. UC Davis Health registered dietitian Jaime Tucker has some tips for snacking smart while staying in place:
Consistency in meals
Although your work, school, and – let’s face it – entire life routine may have changed, it doesn’t mean your usual eating pattern has to. Stick to a normal eating schedule of three meals per day to prevent hunger between meals.
Tip: Avoid the urge to skip meals or limit eating. Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals and restricting eating often leads to over-eating, followed by guilt and shame. Make sure your meals contain a balance of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and vegetables to leave you feeling satisfied.
Tune into hunger and fullness cues
Imagine a scale from 1 to 10: 1 being so hungry you feel physically ill; 10 being so full you feel sick to your stomach. Aim for between 4 and 7. Anytime you feel slightly hungry, eat. Get to a place where you aren’t hungry but are comfortably satisfied. Rate your hunger on this scale before, during, and after a meal or snack to help guide your intake.
Tip: If you find yourself eating when you aren’t hungry, think about what else could be going on. Are you anxious, sad, mad, or just bored? It’s natural to eat for reasons other than hunger, but this can lead to weight gain. Next time you find yourself seeking comfort in the refrigerator, explore other activities to relieve these feelings. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend, or dance in your living room – it doesn’t matter the activity, as long as it brings you joy!
Avoid autopilot snacking
Snacking straight out of the bag while watching TV or working is the perfect recipe for over-eating.
Tip: Instead, try planning and portioning out snacks ahead of time. This reduces the instinct to grab whatever is available and turns snacking into an eating encounter you can feel good about. When you’re ready to snack, eliminate distractions, sit down, and enjoy. Remember to tune into your hunger-fullness scale.
Choose snacks high in protein and healthy fats
Protein and fat are important to keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day. Snacking on carbohydrate-based foods may leave you feeling hungry shortly after.
Tip: Add a scoop of peanut butter to your fruit. Serve crackers with cheese or meat. Dip veggies in hummus or Greek yogurt dip.