How Mindfulness Can Help You Snack Healthier

If you search “snacks” in Google images, you will see colorful bags of every flavor potato chip, dozens of different types of crackers, and all sorts of different candy and chocolate bars. Most of the items come individually packaged and some are labeled “snack size.” When you hear the word “snack,” what comes to mind?

If you look at the Merriam Webster definition of a snack, you will see:

noun \ˈsnak\: a small portion of food eaten between meals.

What is a snack?

So let’s talk about snack food or as I like to call it, food.

A snack has to do with amount and timing. A snack doesn’t have to come out of the “snack food” aisle. Whether or not snacking is healthy is a controversial topic, with one side saying snacking can prevent weight loss, and even cause weight gain, while the other states that snacks help curb hunger and can help prevent over-indulging at meals.

I believe that there is no one “right way” to eat. Why? Everyone’s schedules are different. If you’re a nurse who barely gets a chance to sit down during a 12-hour shift, it would be absurd to assume you’ll have time to sit down for breakfast and lunch. Having a snack or two is important for you stay focused and give you energy in your demanding job. Eating in between meals is A-OK! The key is to be mindful and choose whole food over food products.

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Practicing Mindful Eating

Snacking (and eating, in general) is a problem when it is mindless. The term snacking lends itself to the idea that it is a continuous activity. Have you ever looked down and realized that the bag of chips is gone, and wondered where it all went? You don’t recall eating it all, and can’t even remember what it tasted like? This is mindless eating.

Mindful eating involves both attention and intention; recognizing you are hungry, making deliberate food choices and observing the experience of eating (what the foods taste like, their temperature, aroma, etc.). Many people tend to snack when they are bored or distracted. If this sounds like you, try to pay attention to what makes you want to eat, and ask yourself, “Am I actually hungry?” before eating.

Choosing Foods Over Food Products

When possible, choose food over food product. A food is self-explanatory, (a banana, walnuts, oatmeal) while a food product is something you typically have to describe (would your grandmother know what a popchip is?)

Choosing whole foods is a good way to ensure that you’re giving your body all the nutrients it needs to keep your immune system strong, brain healthy and body energized. A good way to think about snacks is: If you wouldn’t eat it at a meal, don’t eat it as a snack. For example, you wouldn’t eat a Snickers® bar for dinner, so a snack-sized Snickers® bar isn’t the best choice for a snack.

Choosing food over processed products will ensure that you are eating quality food, and eating those foods mindfully will ensure that you’re eating enough, but not too much. Remember, what you eat for a snack doesn’t have to come from the snack food aisle!

Elizabeth BedellElizabeth Bedell Marino is a registered and licensed dietitian and the Coordinator for ProMedica Executive Health Program. For her full bio, please click here.