Excess snacking can result in an over consumption of calories and subsequently weight gain. Therefore, in order to minimise the amount of snacks in-between meals, it is imperative to consume three balanced meals each day. When following a healthy diet for weight loss it is important to fuel your body with the right nutrient-rich foods, as this will reduce the desire to snack. In addition, you need to be mindful of portion sizes so that meals are still calorie-controlled. Each meal should be based around lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates.
Lean proteins and especially healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts) are more satiating; however as fats are energy-dense, consideration needs to be given to serving sizes. Lean proteins should be at the centre of each meal, as research has shown that the body expends more energy when digesting protein-rich foods, which is why protein is very important for weight control. The best low-fat protein sources are skinless chicken and turkey, fish, eggs or plant-based proteins such as chickpeas, beans, pulses and tofu.
Carbohydrates, in particular 'refined' carbohydrates such as confectionery goods, white bread, white rice, pasta and noodles can actually increase cravings and the desire to snack. This is because they have a lower fibre content, higher glycaemic index and provide poor nutritional value compared to wholegrain varieties. Wholegrain foods are not only more nutritious, but they have a lower glycaemic index, which means they are better at balancing blood sugar, in addition to stabilising energy levels. Another important consideration is hydration; maintaining optimal hydration can help curb cravings and suppress appetite, as thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
Furthermore, changing your food mind-set can also reduce the frequency of snacking. In order to lose weight we do need to make a conscious effort to become more aware of eating habits, for instance eating without distractions and questioning whether it is hunger or simply boredom. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can also result in lethargy and an imbalance in blood sugar levels. This will automatically increase the urge for snacking on sugary and generally high-calorie foods, which can negate weight loss efforts; therefore it is important to be consistent with sleep patterns.
Top tips to curb your cravings and desire to snack:
- Ensure each meal is nutritionally balanced- lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates.
- Remain hydrated throughout the day; ensure that you are obtaining at least 2 litres of fluid.
- Is your snacking attributed to boredom? If so, change your routine; go for a walk, read a book or complete a jigsaw.
- Get into a healthy sleep routine; aim for 6-8 hours of restful sleep each night.