Your snacking habits could be adding hundreds of calories to your diet every day.
Look at the calories in a few typical snacks:
- Bar of chocolate — 250 calories
- Frosted doughnut — 270 calories
- Packet of chips — 160 calories
- 1 large chocolate chip cookie — 160 calories
A few bad snacks a week could mean the difference between gaining or losing weight. But despite how impossible it feels, you can control your snacking and accelerate your weight loss.
Here are seven science-backed tips you can start using today:
1. Turn off all distractions when you eat
When was the last time you ate without doing something else at the same time?
Studies have found that you eat more when you’re distracted. You also end up eating more later, because your brain isn’t processing the information and adding it to your memory. Without the memory of eating, you’ll feel hungry again sooner.
Try turning off your TV, music or podcast and focus on what you’re eating. You’ll eat less in the moment and throughout the day.
2. Don’t eat out of a big container
In a study by Cornell University, researchers gave moviegoers fresh popcorn in either a large or medium-sized container. They found that people who had large containers ate 45.3 percent more than those with medium ones. Even when they gave them stale popcorn, people with the large containers still ate 33.6 percent more than those with medium ones.
If you want to eat less of a snack, don’t eat it out of a big container. Instead, dish up one serving and place it in a small bowl before you tuck in.
3. Use snacking as an opportunity to eat more protein
Protein doesn’t get converted to fat as easily as carbohydrates or fats. This is because it requires more energy to digest and absorb.
A 140-pound moderately active woman needs around 130 grams of protein a day. But most of us aren’t consuming this much protein in our daily diet. That’s why I recommend using snack time as an opportunity to up your protein intake.
Here are some ideas for protein-rich snacks:
- Crispy roasted chickpeas — 9g protein per serving
- Good quality beef jerky — 10g protein per serving
- Greek yogurt — 16g protein per serving
- Quest protein bar — 20g protein per serving
4. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
Sleep deprivation negatively affects your hunger and satiety hormones. After two weeks of not getting enough sleep, your body starts to increase ghrelin production, which is the hormone that stimulates your appetite.
You’ll also produce less leptin, which is the hormone that makes you feel full. This leads to feeling hungry, even when your body isn’t. Another negative effect is that it intensifies your cravings for fatty, salty and sugary foods.
Hormones can have a big impact on your behavior. And when you don’t get enough sleep, that behavior is more likely to manifest as reaching into a bag of chips.
Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep a night. To make things easier, I set an alarm clock to remind me when it’s time to go to bed.
5. Skip the snack aisle at the grocery store
Your decision to eat something was made when you bought it, not when you opened it. I always say, “If I buy it, I’m going to eat it”.
You can give yourself the upper hand by changing the snacks you buy at the grocery store. Shop the outside perimeter of the store because that’s usually where all the fresh produce is. This will help you avoid the tempting snack aisles in the middle.
6. Distract yourself when the craving hits
Create some space between the moment you feel the urge to snack and the moment you react. The easiest way I’ve found to do that is to use my phone. Yes, there are situations where being distracted by your phone can be a good thing.
If you’re finding it hard to resist the sweets along the checkout line, take out your phone and play a quick game of Tetris while you wait.
The same goes for when you’re at the office and you feel a craving for a snack. Play a game on your phone for a few minutes. It’ll stop you from making an impulsive decision. And it gives your brain an instant reward by boosting your dopamine levels.
7. Have healthy snacks ready to go
Sometimes snacking is inevitable. The key to preventing this from sabotaging your weight loss is to have healthy snacks ready for those situations.
Snacking on processed foods makes it hard to stop eating. Processed foods have been designed to leave you wanting more. These foods are engineered to trick your senses, by giving you just enough flavor to be intriguing, but not enough to tell your brain to stop eating.
This is the most important tip I have for controlling your snacking: Don’t wait until your craving hits before you decide what you’re going to eat.
Here are some ideas for snacks you can keep on hand for when the feeling strikes:
- Fruit (I usually have berries and apples)
- Protein bars
- Nuts and seeds
- Greek yogurt
- Good quality jerky
- Vegetable chips
- Herbal teas like cinnamon or chamomile
Being prepared and in control of your snacking can reduce the calories you’re eating on a daily basis. This could mean the difference between gaining or losing weight.
Since I started using these techniques I’ve been crushing my chocolate mug cake cravings. My stomach has flattened out and my skinny jeans are fitting much better around my waist.
If you follow these tips and have healthy snacks ready to go, you’ll feel lighter, lose weight faster and see the results in how your skinny jeans fit too.
Want to learn more about eating healthier with your busy life? You can get a free copy of my Ultimate Guide to Quick & Healthy Dinners here.
Originally published at radiantbodyco.com on June 14, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com