Mindless snacking can be a major contributor to weight gain. You may have a general view that your diet is pretty healthy. You may enjoy cooking and cook most of your meals from scratch, but if you take a closer look at your overall diet, you may also be including additional energy in the form of ‘snacks’. If you keep a food diary, be honest and record everything you eat and drink.
Take a closer look at your eating habits and try to stop and think before you eat. Ask yourself the following questions.
On a scale of 1-10 how hungry are you?
1 – Not hungry at all. You’ve just eaten and feel satisfied
3 – Not hungry, just ‘fancy’ something to eat
5 – Feel slightly hungry, but not really ready to eat
7 – Hungry and starting to think about what to eat
8 – Really hungry. Your stomach may be rumbling and telling you its time to eat
10 – You’re starting to feel slightly irritable and extremely hunger.
Try to be more in tune with your appetite. You may notice patterns in your eating habits e.g. you may sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit or two to watch your favourite TV programme. Try to break away from these habits. Use the hunger scale as an indicator of when you should eat and not just because you ‘fancy’ it. Try to break the cycle of ‘mindless eating’.
Try to follow your natural appetite and eat when you are truly hungry: 7-8 on the hunger scale.
Start to make small dietary changes
Reduce the amount of processed and refined foods in your diet. This applies to all the nutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates. There are good and bad sources of all these foods.
Try to limit the amount of refined fats and oils to your diet. This includes bottled vegetable oils. Become a smarter shopper. Start to read the labels. Limit the amount of ‘trans fats’, commonly referred to hydrogenated vegetable oils on food labels. If your diet is high in processed foods, fast foods and ready meals, you’re probably consuming too much of these fats. You should be aiming to consume most of the fat in your diet from naturally occurring fats, intrinsic to the food you eat – fats in nuts, seeds, meat and fish. Good quality, unrefined vegetable oils, seed and nut oils, dairy products are also OK in moderation. Simply, limit the amount of added ‘processed fats’. Foods naturally contain fats; these fats are essential for a healthy diet. It’s the processed fats we add to our diet that we can do without.
Not all carbohydrate foods are bad. Just like fats, you should be limiting the amount of refined carbohydrates. Try to limit or avoid carbohydrate foods made from refined white flour and sugar. These types of carbohydrate foods provide us with little more than energy.
Because of the hormone response to deal with these types of carbohydrates, your body goes into ‘storage’ mode as opposed to ‘burning’ mode and generally leave us wanting more of them.
When choosing carbohydrate foods try to follow these simple rules
- Always opt for unrefined carbohydrates. This means that the carbohydrate should be as close to its natural form as possible e.g. whole grains including the fibrous coat and germ. The skins should be consumed on vegetables when possible.
- The main job of carbohydrate is to provide our muscles with energy to work, so consider when your body needs more energy. Try to avoid carbohydrate rich meals when your activity levels are low. Don’t totally exclude them from your diet, just try not to over consume them when you don’t actually need the energy.
The theme continues, limit the amount of processed meats, fish and dairy foods in your diet. Choose better quality but less of them. Include a variety of non-animal proteins in the diet from nuts, seeds and pulses. Try to include different sources of protein such as sprouted beans and seeds. Protein foods should be an essential element in every meal, not only because they provide essential nutrients, but they are also very satisfying so, keep you feeling full fro longer.
Try to be more ‘mindful’ when you are eating. Be more in-tune with how much food you actually need. Do you regularly go for second helpings or continue to nibble after you have finished your meal. The food may be tempting and delicious, but do you actually need the extra energy. Try not to go straight for second helpings, stop and think if you have had enough. It takes a short while for your stomach to send signals to your brain telling you that you have had enough. After a meal do you sometimes feel uncomfortably overfull? Try not to allow this to happen by stopping and thinking before you go for second helping. Try to get into the habit of listening to your natural appetite.