UK Snacks – we all love them (some of us more than others!), but why? What’s the reason we can’t stop raiding the fridge or reaching into our emergency desk-drawer stash? And are we actually hungry or is there something else behind it?
This used to be me. It’s 3 pm; I had lunch a couple of hours ago and I’m staring at an email, struggling to find the mental capacity to reply. Instead I get up from my desk, walk into the kitchen (I work from home) to make myself a yummy coffee then open the fridge and mindlessly scan it for something sweet. My daughter’s petit-filous stands no chance. Her digestive biscuits will get it an hour later. In those moments I rarely went for a carrot or an apple – possibly a banana because it was sweet, but my body was only really looking for an instant energy boost – a sugar high. Celery sticks just didn’t have the same appeal. The irony of these ‘quick fixes’ were that they left me more exhausted than before – because what goes up, must come down. So I was in fact putting myself through several mini sugar comedowns a day, which is sadly the case for many of us, especially those with stressful jobs/lives.
It was only really when I switched to eating three meals a day and started to experiment with intermittent fasting that I realised how much more intentional I was being around food. I had got myself into the habit of eating snacks at certain times, which was more mindless than truly tuned into my body’s hunger cues. This can happen when our brains associate food with the environment or the time of day, and we act out of instinct.
One of the biggest triggers for food is stress. When you’re feeling stressed, your body sends out the hormone cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’, which is linked to hunger and cravings. Because of our increased hormone levels, the body prepares us for a ‘fight or flight’ scenario and urges us to reach for extra energy (usually in the form of something sweet or salty), when we’re really just snowed under with deadlines and sitting in front of a full inbox. All this extra fuel can lead to weight gain, fatigue, mood changes and a whole host of other issues. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels also cause fat to be deposited deep in the abdomen, which can lead to obesity or weight gain. This visceral fat, or fat stored around the organs, produces more cortisol compared to other types of fat tissue which could help explain why it’s so easy to gain weight, but so hard to lose it.
I’ll be the first to say that becoming more intentional around eating (especially snacking) is not easy. It’s hard to curb mindless (unhealthy) uk snacking and it takes practice, but I have some practical tips to share to get you moving in the right direction!
Time your meals
Plan out your meals for the day — know what you’re going to eat and when. If you skip a meal, you will get hungry (and maybe even hangry) and that will increase your chances of mindless snacking. Ever been to a supermarket on an empty stomach? Did you buy snacks and food not on your shopping list? It’s too tempting! When your brain knows there’s a plan, you’re more likely to be more mindful around food. If you plan to snack, think about when you usually get the most hungry and have a pre-portioned, healthy snack with you. For most people, that’s mid-morning or between lunch and dinner.
Treat your uk snacks like a meal
Practice mindful eating. Put your snack on a plate, sit at the table, put away your phone, just pay attention to the food you’re eating and enjoy it! Being more intentional around your snacks (and meals) will help you to recognise when you’re full, therefore helping to keep your snacking in check.
If you can’t stop, there are a few tricks you can use. We’ve all had those days when we are bottomless pits. If you have the urge to continue to snack, here are my top tips:
1. Make sure you eat satisfying UK snacks!
A good mix of protein, healthy fats and veggies is the perfect combo. Focusing on real, whole foods is key too because most processed food (aka junk food) is loaded with additives that make it impossible for you to stop munching after one bite. They’re the perfect combo of sweet or salty that have you going back for more every time.
2. Stay hydrated and/or find something to sip. Sometimes we snack because we think we’re hungry, but actually our body is just dehydrated and craving good ol’ H2O. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a great way to combat this, but it can also be helpful to have some additional liquid options on hand, like sparkling water, herbal teas or even some apple cider vinegar. Lately I’ve been having a mug of Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Tea after dinner each night.
3. Brush your teeth. Trust me on this one. Sometimes when you have leftover flavours in your mouth you continue to crave them. A clean, fresh mouth will make you less likely to reach for the cookie jar.
4. Entertain yourself. This will look different for everyone, but find an activity that changes your mindset, distracts you and prevents you from going into the kitchen. Get excited about reading a new book, go for a run, do a yoga routine before bed, take a bath to relax, or start a new craft project.
Control the environment
If you can’t stop, it might be time to take more drastic measures. Stop buying those uk snacks you cannot resist eating! You can’t eat what is not there. It may seem obvious, but storing snack foods out of sight or in hard-to-reach places can be helpful too. Out of sight, out of mind. This tip almost works too well for me. I like to store baked goods (and other uk snacks) in the freezer or on the top shelf behind jars and tins so that if I have a craving it’s there, but it’s not out on the counter tempting me every time I glance over.
If you notice that during certain activities you often end up mindlessly snacking – e.g. watching TV, putting away dinner leftovers, post baking – you may need to switch things up. I noticed that every night when I was cleaning the kitchen after I put my daughter to bed, I was nibbling on leftovers from dinner. Totally unnecessary and pretty mindless. One easy solution that I’ve found is to clear up the kitchen straight after dinner time while I’m still full.
Combat the underlying cause
We often find ourselves snacking in the uk because of certain emotions or situations (boredom, loneliness, stress). Have you ever received a heated email and immediately made a beeline to the kitchen for a treat, just to procrastinate writing the response? Start to notice when your emotions are fuelling your eating and try to find a different outlet for those emotions. This one is tough (especially if you’ve been an emotional eater your whole life) and I won’t deny that it requires a ton of practice, but figuring out how to deal with emotions without using food is huge when it comes to mindless snacking.
The bottom line? Snacking can reduce our natural hunger cues and ruin our appetites. This can result in irregular eating patterns and a lack of eating routine which can lead to weight gain and a negative relationship towards food. Additionally, when we snack, we are constantly filling our guts with food and not allowing time for ‘rest’ and ‘healing’. Digestion is an incredibly complex process that requires a lot of energy in between meals. Undigested food can ferment, causing constipation, gas, bloating, dysbiosis of the gut microbiome and a direct affect on our energy levels and mood.
If you are currently struggling to control your eating habits then my 2-week Healthy Snacking Habits Coaching Program will help you eat regularly throughout the day while being in tune with your hunger and fullness cues. It will inspire you to ‘reconnect’ with your body, feel more energised and motivated, improve your mood and manage your weight with ease. I’ve also thrown in some delicious uk snacks recipe as an added bonus!