For many people, nothing can sabotage a slim-down like a bad snacking habit. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over the last 30 years, the average number of snacks consumed per day has doubled. And the percentage of adults who snack on any given day has risen from 59 to 90 percent. Considering that snacking more times in a day is associated with consuming more calories, is it any wonder that as our snacking habits increased, so too have our waistlines?
Don’t get us wrong—we’re all for healthy snacking. Fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds can make for nutritious mid-day noshing. But according to a 2014 Nielson report, chips, chocolate, cheese and cookies—which tend to be higher in calories, fat, sugar and salt, are the top-ranking snacks in North America.
If you often find yourself reaching for some of these snack-time staples, or you are a frequent flyer in the office snack drawer, it may be time to reassess. Here are 6 questions to ask yourself before you give in to your next snack attack:
1. Am I actually hungry?
Bored? Stressed? Eating because it’s there, because it tastes good or because everyone else is doing it? There are lots of reasons we eat. But there’s only one reason we should: Because our bodies need fuel. Before you dish out, ‘fess up: does your body really need a snack right now?
2. Did I wait 20 minutes after my meal?
That’s about the amount of time it takes your tummy to signal your brain that it’s full. If you just downed a whole plate of food, wait at least 20 minutes before visiting the vending machine.
3. Am I hydrated?
It’s not uncommon to confuse thirst with hunger. To be sure you aren’t just running low on liquids, drink a glass of water before you visit the vending machine.
4. Am I so hungry, I’d eat broccoli?
If you truly are hungry, you’d eat anything, right? So ask yourself: If the only snack I had on hand was something healthy like a piece of fruit or raw veggies, would I still NEED to snack?
5. Can I munch in moderation?
If you decide that snacking is a necessity, don’t opt for foods you tend to overeat. If you’re diving into a supersized bag of popcorn, cutting off at a serving might prove tricky. Portion out your snack or better yet, reach for guilt-free options (see #6).
6. Is there a more nutritious option?
Carrots with hummus, celery sticks with peanut butter, apple slices and a hard-boiled egg or a low fat cheese string are all great snack options to have on hand when mid-meal hankerings hit. They are lower in calories, fat, sugar and salt than many conventional snack options, plus they dish out tons of nutrients your body needs.