Possibly the most unpredicted struggle of 2020: an increase in snacking during a worldwide pandemic lockdown.
And while we may have missed the ‘self-isolation snacking’ Google search term trend by about 6 weeks, dealing with the afternoon munchies isn’t a problem entirely unique to lockdown. So sharing our top tips still felt right, especially given we’re looking down the barrel of another couple of weeks/months of working from home in the UK.
More and more research is coming out about the benefits of increasing periods of fasting (aka eating nada), both overnight and in between meals. This can improve both our metabolic health and fat burning. This by no means suggests we’re advocating for intermittent fasting diets etc, but extending the amount of time between meals and overnight appears to be beneficial.
This is because when we eat anything containing carbs (which is basically everything except meat), our body breaks this down into glucose and releases this into our bloodstream.
If we don’t use up all the glucose from the last meal we ate as energy, it gets stored as fat. But if we do use up all the glucose as energy, our body then turns to our fat stores for energy, meaning we start to burn fat.
If we leave more space in between our meals, it gives our body the time to burn through all the glucose and move onto our fat stores. It also means less extra glucose is left hanging around to get stored as fat.
This is why it can be beneficial to be more mindful about our snacking behaviours. Obviously if you’re genuinely hungry, a snack is still a jolly good idea. But if you find you’re snacking for other reasons (e.g. boredom or stress), perhaps some of our tips below might be useful.
The best way to keep a lid on lockdown snacking
1. Decide if you’re actually hungry
Often when we want a snack, it might not be due to physical hunger. The first step in becoming more mindful is to identify if we’re experiencing physical or emotional hunger. Basically, is the craving coming from our stomach or our brain.
Our favourite strategy that we’ve heard for this is the ‘carrot’ test. Next time you want a snack, think about whether you’re hungry enough to eat a carrot. If yes, then it’s probably physical hunger. If no, then it’s likely that hunger is coming from your mind.
So, if it’s an emotional craving – then what?
2. From my Girl Guide days, ‘always be prepared’
Having a plan ahead of time is the best way to steer clear of spontaneous kitchen visits. For many of us, our triggers for snacking are pretty similar each time. This might be ‘bored listening to this work presentation’, ‘it’s 3:30pm’, or ‘Too Hot to Handle isn’t the same without a block of chocolate’.
Humans are fairly predictable creatures, but we can use this to our advantage.
Take a moment to write down every potential trigger for your snacking, then come up with a plan for when that happens, kinda like this:
- ‘When I get bored listening to a work presentation, I’ll put my camera and mic on mute and start the crossword from the weekend paper’
- ‘When it’s 3:30pm, I’ll go for my daily walk outside’
- ‘Before watching Too Hot to Handle, I’ll make sure I’ve brushed my teeth so I’m less likely to want something sweet’… because brushing your teeth once is painful enough.
3. Send your boyfriend shopping
This one actually works quite well – centred around the age old wisdom of ‘if it’s not in the house, I won’t want to eat it’.
Boyfriends are particularly good at only buying what’s on the shopping list, which is sometimes extremely annoying (returning home with all the ingredients for a red curry except for the red curry paste), but can be helpful when you want to avoid the temptation of the supermarket aisles.
If that’s not an option, we’d suggest writing a shopping list for yourself and shopping straight after you’ve eaten something – going through the supermarket on an empty stomach is never a great idea.
4. Find cognitively challenging tasks
New research shows that when our brain is cognitively engaged in something, we’re far more likely to avoid cravings for certain foods.
So, making a green tea and reading a book to stop yourself from snacking generally achieves fuck all. Instead, try to find an activity that requires some brain power, such as sudoku, crosswords, brain training apps or a puzzle.
5. Have healthy snacks available
If you do feel physically hungry or you just genuinely want to eat a snack, then go for it! Having some healthy snacks on hand for times like this can be a good idea.
Here are a few of our faves:
- Broccoli fritters
- Crack nuts
- Kale chips
- Breakfast bakes
- Vegan blueberry muffins
- Nutty dates
- Notella banana bread
- Dark chocolate peanut butter cookies
There you have it! Our hacks on the snacks.
But before we wrap this ramble up, it’s important to say that it’s better if we just ditch all this pressure to come out of lockdown looking like Adele.
At the moment we’re all in a strange type of ‘survival’ mode. For many of us, food is the only variable that we get on a daily basis, everything else is staying fairly monotonous. So, if that means enjoying snacks and desserts more often than usual, then hells yes enjoy every bite!