Who can go out to the movies and not buy a tub of buttery popcorn? A recent study appearing in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that your environment can be a powerful trigger when it comes to how you eat. If you're used to noshing on specific foods in a certain place — like popcorn at the movies — you'll likely develop a habit of eating even if you're not hungry or the foods aren't that good. That's why you might grab a stale donut in the break room or if you're used to eating in front of the TV, even though you're not a fan of the flavor, you'll reach for your hubby's bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.
Since your brain starts to associate food with settings, it contributes to mindless consumption of calories. Here are some ways to break those bad snacking habits.
- Bring your own snacks: If you know you'll want to hit the concession stand before a movie or game, avoid the temptation by packing your own healthy snacks. Pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, cheese and crackers, and slices of fruit are great options to keep your mouth busy. If popcorn is a must, make some at home with an air popper.
- Choose healthier options: If you're used to munching on ice cream while watching your favorite sitcom, instead of denying yourself, prepare something healthier instead. There are plenty of dessert-like treats you can enjoy to satisfy your sweet tooth such as fresh fruit with pineapple ginger dip, baked apples, or smoothies, or if you can't live without something cold to spoon, go for some low-calorie fruit sorbet.
Keep reading for more tips on how to break bad snacking habits.
- Avoid your triggers: If you can't walk down the street by your office without stopping in the corner bakery, then take your postlunch stroll somewhere else. Avoid the places that sell the foods you have no willpower to resist.
- Eat and that's it: When you enjoy snacks and meals in front of the TV, computer, or while people watching at the park, you're not paying attention to the food going in your mouth. To prevent spacing out and stuffing your face, eat without any distractions so you can focus on savoring every bite. That way your brain will register that you're eating and can tell you when it's had enough.
- Keep nibbles in your purse: Sometimes it's hard to know what environment will trigger a case of the munchies, so if you keep snacks with you, you can satiate your snackiness with healthy bites you can easily grab. I like to keep small plastic containers of crackers, nuts, and energy bars in my purse.
- If you go unhealthy, go small: It's OK to indulge in high-calorie snacks, you just don't want to make a meal out of it. So whether it's chocolate cake for your co-worker's birthday or cookies at your mom's house, serve yourself a small portion on a plate, enjoy it, and be done.