Maintaining a regular eating pattern at University can be difficult, with those late nights and late starts, you might feel slightly disjointed with your mealtimes which can in turn lead to unhealthy eating habits… such as snacking.
Some of us find ourselves getting hungry at random times of the day and will snack so much that we aren’t even hungry for our next meal. Let’s face it – snacking is so much easier than cooking a meal, but you’d be lying if you said you felt fulfilled after scoffing a few bags of crisps, half a packet of biscuits or a whole chocolate bar.
Why do we snack?
- Cravings: If you live off refined and processed goods such as white bread, pasta, rice, pastries etc. then the chances are you will experience sugar cravings as you are so used to eating sugary foods. Get clued up on sugar and read my blog on the not so sweet truth about sugar.
- Comfort Eating: Most emotions can trigger snacking, for example if you’re sad we tend to reach for a tub of ice cream but even when we are happy we want to treat ourselves and may buy some treats. We use food as a comfort mechanism, and if you’re anything like me comfort eating is followed by an over-riding sense of guilt which, at the end of it all, makes me feel even worse.
- Boredom: One of the biggest causes of snacking! The fact of the matter is you probably aren’t even hungry when you reach for that bag of crisps, or the second, but eating it will pass the time… Watching TV with a big bag of crisps is a lethal combination, as you don’t even realise how much you are eating and before you know it the whole bag has gone! Don’t even bother denying it – we’ve all been there.
- Stress: This is a big one for all you students (including myself) with upcoming exams and deadlines. When we experience high levels of stress our body releases a hormone which leads to uncontrollable urges to eat foods that are unhealthy, which yet again may lead us to feel even worse due to guilt. It’s a vicious cycle that I’m sure most of us have experienced at one point.
So how can we stop these snack attacks?
Not all snacking is bad, grabbing an apple or banana as a snack is a great way to reach your 5-a-day, and many nutritionists recommend three meals a day with plenty of water and a couple of nutritious snacks. So it’s OK to snack, but the problem is many of us snack on unhealthy foods that will eventually lead us to wanting more and more. Here are some top tips to try and curb these snack attacks and some healthy snack ideas to help satisfy those cravings!
- Make sure your main meals satisfy your hunger by using healthy sources of protein (i.e. eggs, yoghurt, chicken) with Low GI foods (such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice) – they will keep you fuller for longer.
- Distract yourself when those hunger pangs start to kick in an hour before teatime by chatting to your flatmates, giving mum and dad a call or perhaps even going for a walk! If you start snacking just before your tea then the chances are you won’t even be hungry by the time it’s ready or enjoy it as much.
- Ask yourself – am I really hungry? Do I really want this packet of crisps? 9 times out of 10 the answer will be no.
- Hide food from sight, especially within arm’s reach of your desk. This way you won’t end up eating everything in your path when you’re stressing over a piece of coursework, and then going back for seconds, thirds…
- Drinking plenty of water can trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten. You should be drinking plenty anyway, but for those of you who think water is too boring try adding some fresh lemon slices to zing it up a bit.
- Some studies have shown chewing gum can suppress hunger cravings… yet others have suggested it can do the opposite. For me, it takes my mind off food for a while but it obviously varies. Try to opt for sugar free gum as some brands load their gum with sugar.
- Some healthy snack ideas:
- Graze Boxes: I get a snack box delivered every fortnight which has four little packets of different snacks each week like flapjacks, healthy brownies and dried fruits and nuts. It isn’t expensive and they are great for taking to Uni – have a look online for offers.
- Wholegrain crackers with light cream cheese and sliced cucumber. These little snacks are so fulfilling, tasty and nutritious. ALDI do a pack of 8 wholegrain crackers for less than a £1, cucumber and cream cheese are usually around 50p so they don’t break the bank either.
- Fruit crackers with low fat yoghurt and sliced strawberries or dried fruit. Ryvita sell a range of cracker breads and can be found in Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s for around £1.
Studentrecipes.com has nearly 500 recipes for snacks – some healthier than others – so have a look and find some nutritious snacks to beat those cravings!