Mindful snacking is being introduced as an effective solution to the sometimes amnesia-like noshing we do when we snack on chips, nuts, cookies, and popcorn. We seldom pay much attention to how much or how quickly we eat when we dive into a bowl of popcorn at the movies, or into our bag of chips when we walk down the street.
Multitasking Contributes To Mindless Eating
Our hands goes in and out of the bowl or bag, and in and out of our mouth, quite automatically. We are aware of what we’re doing; after all, we experience the taste, the crunch, and the subsequent thirst that accompanies our snacking, but typically our minds are somewhere else —on the movie, on a conversation with our friend or partner, or on trying to safely cross the street.
All Or Nothing Snacking Leads To Greater Problems
One result of typical snacking behavior is eating excessively. Did we intend to eat the entire bowl of popcorn or that giant bag of Doritos? We planned to eat just one cookie or just a small cup of ice cream, but now realize that four cookies have disappeared from the bag, and we are left with only half the container of ice cream. Obviously, we conclude, the best and only way to control this heedless snacking is to become abstinent, or to eat limit ourselves to snacks that do little to excite our taste buds.
What Is Mindful Snacking?
Some snack food manufacturers have developed an alternative to snacking on tasteless options. They want you to eat what you enjoy, whether it is a tiny cookie, a single piece of chocolate, or a few chips; however, the key word here is few.
They want you to snack, but to do so with great restraint. They suggest you snack mindfully; contemplate each chip, notice its shape, admire its color, and then when you are ready to eat it, to enjoy it slowly, to be mindful of the flavors on your tongue prior to swallowing.
Some manufacturers have tried to slow down your snack consumption by placing small amounts of snacks into individual packages, thus making it harder for you to eat a large quantity of the snack. Theoretically, small packages may slow down your eating pace. However, if your frustration increases because you now need to open several packages, you may just switch to snacks in larger bags.
The benefit of Mindful eating is that it can be a useful method for recognizing actual hunger and satiety. The idea is that when eating slows down, your stomach has time to release hormonal signals that communicate with the brain.
Moods: The Problem With Mindful Snacking
However, if snacking is driven not by hunger or just a desire to taste a chocolate chip cookie, but by an actual emotional need, as it so often is, then a relaxed, restrained, Zen-like approach to noshing may be quite difficult.
For those of us who mindlessly reach for unhealthy snacks, when we are bored, tired, angry, anxious, depressed, irritable, frustrated, lonely, procrastinating, unsettled, or agitated, we eating to change our state of mind and ultimately to feel better.
After all, if eating broccoli or fava beans made us feel better, we would obsess over eating vegetables. When we are upset, we don’t reach for veggies because we have learned, likely when our mothers fed us Cheerios to curb our whining, that carbs do the trick.
Update Your Smart Snack List With Carbs
Unfortunately, snacks won’t make us feel better the moment they touch out tongues, although decadent snacks can certainly feel temporarily satisfying on some level. Yet that sensation lasts mere seconds. What lifts our mood is the effect of eating carbs on serotonin, the brain chemical that restores our sense of calm and our emotional stability.
Snack manufacturers are almost right in how they want us to snack. It is important to eat with restraint, since a little can go a long way in helping us feel better. Just about 25-30 grams of low-fat, starchy or sweet carbs, about 130 calories, will effectively work to improve our mood. It’s helpful to know that eating more than that isn’t going to improve our mood any more.
Those of us on the Serotonin Power Diet, who snack on carbs to improve our mood and help us feel full, can tell you from personal experience that the snacks that belong at the top of your smart snack list are low-fat carb snacks.
So enjoy a carb snack, wait 20 minutes, and smile.