Quarantine snacking fixer-upper – Harvard Health Blog

The “Battle of the Bulge” has won a new enemy this year: quarantine snacking. Sales of snack foods like cookies and crackers have skyrocketed in the early days of the shutdowns, and recent consumer surveys show people have changed their eating habits and are snacking more.

We do not yet have solid evidence that the increase in snacking and consumption of ultra-processed foods this year has led to weight gain. While ’40s 15′ memes were all the rage on social media earlier this year, only a few small studies have suggested a link between isolation from COVID-19 and weight gain. But you don’t need scientific evidence to know if your belt is tighter.

Snacking is not just a weight risk

Regular snacking on junk food comes with many risks. Processed foods are usually loaded with unhealthy saturated fat and high amounts of salt, calories, added sugar, and refined (unhealthy) grains.

Eating too much of these foods can lead to an increase in blood sugar (which increases the risk of diabetes), constipation, or an increase in LDL cholesterol (which increases the risk of heart disease).

What you can do

If your snacking habits are going off the rails, here are some tips to get you back on track.

  • Keep junk food out of the house. Without the junk food lying around, you won’t be tempted to eat it.
  • Plan healthy snacks. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy snack foods like fat-free Greek yogurt, berries, chopped veggies, nuts (walnuts, almonds), hummus, or whole wheat crackers. Plan your daily snacks in advance, so you’re more likely to snack wisely.
  • Focus on hunger. Before snacking, consider whether you are hungry or just thirsty. A good way to put it: Drink an eight ounce glass of water, then wait 10 to 15 minutes. If you are still hungry, have a healthy snack.
  • Know your desires. Are you hungry or are you alone, bored or stressed? Food will not solve the problem. Instead, walk around the block, put on some music, or choose another activity that might distract you or improve your mood. If you still want food, eat only a small amount.
  • Don’t skip meals. It can make you so hungry later in the day that you are vulnerable to consuming mega-servings of snack foods to supply your body with easily digestible sugars.
  • Do not eat directly from the bag or carton. If you snack on an open bag of crackers or a jar of frozen yogurt, you can eat more than one serving. Instead, divide your serving over a dish.
  • Eat mindfully. Turn off the television, put your phone down, and watch your snack. Savoring a piece of fine chocolate can be more satisfying than mindlessly swallowing a whole bar of chocolate.
  • Prepare for snacks away from home. Plan ahead and keep a healthy snack in your bag or car. That way, you won’t desperately turn to cookies or calorie-laden vending machines.

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Jothi Venkat

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