How to trick your brain into snacking less

WASHINGTON — Americans love to snack. Seriously.

Some 94 percent of Americans say they regularly eat between meals, according to recent surveys.

And, some of those snacks may be more like meals in terms of calories. Surveys from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Americans get anywhere from 24 percent to 30 percent of their daily calories from snacking, said Lean Plate Club™ blogger Sally Squires.

So what’s a snack and what’s a meal? New research shows changing how you think could help you cut back on the snacking.

Squires pointed to a study by British researchers of 81 healthy-weight women who were each given a meal of pasta. Half the women were told the pasta was a meal, and they sat at a nice table with a tablecloth, china and silverware. The other half were told the pasta was a snack, and they ate it standing up at a table.

Next, the women were offered four different kinds of treats: chocolate cookies, M & M’s, cheese crackers and pretzels.

“And they found that the women who were told that they had a snack … ended up eating a lot more of the food that was offered to them that wasn’t as healthy after they’d had their meal — even though they’d all had the same amount of calories; they all reported feeling the same amount of fullness.”

The key take-away?

“We really need to pay attention where we’re eating and how we’re eating,” Squires said. “The researchers are guessing that maybe when you’re standing up, and you think that it’s just a little snack, that one thing that might be happening is maybe your brain’s not registering what you’re doing.”

So instead of multitasking when you snack, stay mindful.

As for healthy go-to snack options: If you have a taste for something savory, go for nuts, pretzels or popcorn, Squires said. Soup is also a good option.

If you’re craving the sweets, try dried or fresh fruit or yogurt, Squires said.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up