It can be difficult to always make healthy decisions when it comes to eating right, especially when trying to change your snacking habits. A lot of our “go-to” snacks – chips, salted nuts, candy – are full of unhealthy fats, additives and high levels of sugar. Here are 9 steps to help you break the unhealthy snacking trend, and pick the snacks that are delicious and good for you.
Eat before you shop: Going grocery shopping while hungry tends to make us make poor decisions, opting for junk food and premade, prepackaged food that we can eat right away! You may have intended to make healthy choices, but with a growling stomach, somehow, what ends up in your cart at checkout just doesn’t reflect healthy choices! Eat before you shop.
Eat less junk food: If junk food has a big part in your diet, you might find switching to healthy snacks difficult. Remember that it is a gradual transition: instead of buying salty chips, try baked tortilla chips; make pizza instead of ordering out. You’ll be moving towards a healthier lifestyle in no time!
Promote healthy options: Not the person who shops for food in your household? Compile a list of healthy foods to help them navigate the aisles. Include dark green leafy vegetables, fruit, unsalted nuts and whole grain breads and cereals.
Avoid temptation: Stocking your kitchen with healthy snacks instead of unhealthy options gets rid of the temptation. Watch out for party scenarios, dinner parties and events where unhealthy food abounds in leftovers: ice cream, desserts, chips, candy, etc. Having these foods in your house will tempt you to choose them over your healthier options.
Develop self control: Keeping unhealthy foods out of your kitchen is a big step in self-control. Now, go even further: listen to yourself, identify your bad snacking habits, and try your best to curb or control them. Focus less on food – instead of thinking on the sweets you’re missing out, focus on finding new, delicious and healthy treats. Try new recipes that encourage you to use healthy ingredients. If you have a habit of returning from work to an unhealthy snack every day, try alternatives: replace that snack with tea or a piece of fruit. Allow yourself the unhealthy snack once a week as opposed to every day. These little steps can go a long way to helping you change your snacking habits for the better.
Distinguish between need and want: Try and understand food as a necessity and not just for comfort. Listen to your body and your behaviour: are you searching aimlessly through the cupboards, munching on what you find? You are eating compulsively and not for nourishment. Having a particular snack in mind, or craving fruit, water or salt, is an indication that your body craves the nutrients and minerals and needs the nourishment. However, cravings are not always indications of a need: craving ice cream doesn’t mean you need it.
Choose healthy snacks based on your meal plan: It is important to balance your diet, and try and get a bit of each food group a day. This applies to your snacking habits as well: while yogurt is a great option for a snack, if you ate meals packed full with items from the dairy food group (milk, cheese), choose something from another food group to balance out your diet – a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or some veggies.
Gradually transition: We all have our favourite foods that can be difficult to give up. Instead of replacing your favourite snacks with completely different foods with unfamiliar flavours, try alternatives. If your favourite snack is chips and dip, try carrot sticks with small portions of ranch dressing. Pop drinker? Keep the fizz by switching to mineral water. Enjoy milkshakes? Try fruit smoothies made with yogurt instead.
Control portion size, impulse buys and over-snacking: Even if you are eating a healthy snack, too much of it can ruin your appetite for meals that will provide you with more of the necessary nutrients you need: control your portion size, keeping snacks small. Snacks should never be a replacement for a healthy meal. When you do snack, don’t go for impulse buys of sugary or fatty snacks – go for snacks that will supply you with energy and nutrients to help you make it to your next meal. These snacks include whole-grain foods, vegetables and fruits.