The “battle for the bulge” won a new opponent this year: the quarantine neck. Sales of snacks like cookies and crackers skyrocketed in the early days of the lockdown, and recent consumer surveys have shown that people have changed their eating habits and are snacking more.
We don’t yet have solid evidence that more snacks and the consumption of ultra-processed foods resulted in weight gain this year. While “Quarantine 15” memes were trending on social media earlier this year, few small studies have suggested a link between COVID-19-related isolation and weight gain. However, you don’t need scientific evidence to determine if your bond is closer.
Snacking isn’t just a weight risk
Regularly snacking on junk food carries many risks. Processed foods are usually filled with lots of unhealthy saturated fats and high amounts of salt, calories, added sugars, and refined (unhealthy) grains.
Eating too much of these foods can lead to increased blood sugar (which increases the risk of diabetes), constipation, or high LDL cholesterol (which increases the risk of heart disease).
What you can do
If your snacking habits get out of hand, here are some tips to get you back on track.
- Keep junk food out of the house. Without junk food lying around, you won’t be tempted to eat it.
- To plan healthy snacks. Store your fridge and pantry with healthy snacks like fat-free Greek yogurt, berries, chopped vegetables, nuts (walnuts, almonds), hummus, or whole grain crackers. Plan your daily snacks in advance so that you are more likely to eat wisely.
- Don’t worry about being hungry. Before snacking, ask yourself if you are hungry or just thirsty. A great way to say: drink an 8-ounce glass of water, then wait 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re still hungry, have a healthy snack.
- Know your desires. Are you hungry or lonely, bored or stressed? Eating won’t fix the problem. Instead, go for a walk around the block, make music, or choose another activity that might distract you or improve your mood. If you still want to eat, only eat a small amount.
- Don’t skip meals. This can make you so hungry later in the day that you are prone to gobbling up mega-servings of snacks to provide your body with easily digestible sugar.
- Do not eat straight out of the bag or box. If you eat an open bag of crackers or a tub of frozen yogurt, you can eat more than one serving. Instead, portion your serving in a bowl.
- Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV, hang up the phone, and watch your snack. Enjoying a piece of fine chocolate can be more satisfying than senselessly devouring an entire bar of chocolate.
- Prepare for snacks from home. Plan ahead and keep a healthy snack in your pocket or car. That way, you won’t get desperate for high-calorie cookies or vending machines.