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How to stop snacking: Know your triggers

Snack table; bowls of carbs heavy snacks like crisps, pretzels, cheesy puffs, tortilla crisps, bread sticks.

If you’re wondering how to stop snacking, know that mindless fridge-raids and biscuit-tin-dips are common habits that so many of us struggle with.

Working from home has made snacking easier than ever. The kitchen cupboards are a 10-second walk away, the fridge is basically your new colleague and there’s no one around to judge you for that afternoon snackathon.

The good news? Snacking in itself isn’t bad. When you’re genuinely hungry, snacking on nutritious foods can provide an energy boost and stop cravings for sugary and salty snacks.

But maybe you’ve found yourself snacking out of habit, rather than hunger—or perhaps you feel that the extra calories from your daily snack attacks could be preventing you from reaching a healthy weight.

How to stop snacking

If you can relate, it’s never too late to take back control of your snacking habits. Here’s how to stop snacking mindlessly, without going hungry, by identifying your snack triggers:

Snack trigger 1: You skipped a meal

Those hunger pangs you inevitably experience after skipping a meal can lead to overindulging on snacks later on. The hungrier you are, the harder it is to make healthy food decisions.

In fact, studies show that skipping dinner is associated with weight gain and a higher likelihood of being overweight or obese.

Try to stick to 2 or 3 regular meals, on a schedule that suits your lifestyle. It can also help to plan out your meals ahead of time. That way, you’ll always have the ingredients to build a healthy and fulfilling meal, which can really help to reduce the temptation to snack.

Snack trigger 2: Your meals aren’t sustaining you

It’s hard to avoid snack attacks if you aren’t first eating healthy and balanced meals.

Refined carbohydrates (think bread and pasta) and packet foods are typically high in calories but low in fibre, protein and essential micronutrients.

On top of this, these types of foods are digested quickly, leading to rapid spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and craving snacks not long after eating.

That’s why a review of 50 weight gain studies found that, on average, the more refined grains (carbohydrates) a person ate, the more weight they gained.

So what’s the answer? Think PFF: protein, fibre, fat, at every meal. This nourishing combo takes longer to break down in the digestive system; preventing those blood sugar peaks and hunger-inducing dips. The result? Fewer snack cravings.

With every meal, try to include….
  • 1–2 palm-sized portions of protein
  • 2+ fist-sized portions of fibrous carbohydrates (fibre)
  • 1–2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats
PROTEINCARBOHYDRATESHEALTHY FATS
EggsBroccoli, spinachAvocado
FishGreen beansOily fish
ChickenKale, cabbageNuts & seeds
BeefBrussel sproutsOlives/ oil
TurkeyCauliflowerButter
TofuSquash, celeriacCream
Greek yoghurtBerriesHard cheese

Snack trigger 3: You’re bored or stressed

Snacking out of boredom, stress or sadness rather than physical hunger is something we all deal with from time to time. But if you can’t seem to budge the snacking habit, you might have simply lost touch with your body’s natural hunger signals. 

Before you next reach for a snack, take a moment to figure out whether you’re actually hungry. If can’t feel any physical sensation of hunger, you’re probably snacking out of habit, or because you’re stressed or bored. After checking in on your hunger, you might find that you don’t really want the snack anymore.

In these instances, try to figure out what you really need. If you’re feeling down, confide in a friend or, if it’s a long-term problem, seek help from your GP. If you’re prone to opening the fridge when you’re bored, head straight out for a walk, call a friend or do something you enjoy to distract yourself.

Snack trigger 4: You’re distracted

Eating whilst you’re focused on other things such as the TV, your phone or work, or eating too quickly, disrupts your ability to process the impact that eating has had on your hunger.

In fact, a 2013 study on distracted eating discovered that the study group that ate without television were less likely to over-eat later on.

If you’re prone to distracted or rushed meals, set a time to eat and focus solely on eating. Only got 10 minutes for lunch? No problem. Sit down at a table, away from your phone or work, and focus solely on your food for those 10 minutes.

Avoid eating at your desk when you can. It’s all too easy to mindlessly make your way through a whole pack of nut whilst you’re concentrating on work, even if you were full after a handful. If you do choose to have a snack whilst working, you can avoid endless grazing by planning a pre-portioned healthy snack.

Snack trigger 5: You’re exhausted

Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep when it comes to managing your hunger.

Quality sleep helps to regulate the balance of hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you’re tired, your level of ghrelin goes up, while your level of leptin goes down. This can make it much harder to avoid snacking and maintain a healthy weight.

Going to bed (and getting up) at the same time every day, avoiding caffeine after 2 pm, getting plenty of sunlight in the daytime and dimming the lights come evening can all help you to drift off quicker and achieve a deeper sleep.

Find out more in our tips for better sleep.

Snack trigger 6: You’re dehydrated

Craving a delicious snack? Your body might just be calling out for some good old H20.

When you’re mildly dehydrated, your body turns on your hunger signals, so it’s easy to get things twisted. Increasing your fluid intake can also help to ease an insatiable appetite, as water takes up space in the stomach.

So much so, that in a 2014 study, 50 females who drank 500ml of water 30 minutes before a meal in addition to their regular water consumption experienced a reduction in body weight, body fat and body mass index.

The take-home? If you’re trying to stop snacking, boosting your water intake should be the first step. Carry a bottle around with you and get sipping and make sure to have a glass alongside every meal, too.

Snack trigger 7: You’re not controlling your environment

A group of researchers recently studied whether the presence of foods on a person’s kitchen counter is associated with their weight. They found that those who had easy access to junk food weighed more.

It’s unsurprising; we’re all human. If there’s a doughnut sitting in the kitchen, it’s hard not to eat the damn doughnut. The strange part? If you don’t see the doughnut in the first place, you won’t actually feel like you’re missing out.

So next time you head to the shops, try to buy fewer of the high-sugar, high-salt foods you know you can’t resist. Instead, fill your trolley with plenty of healthy whole foods. You can’t snack on what’s not there—and if you do need to reach for a snack, at least it’ll be a healthier option!

We’re not saying you should deprive yourself of your favourite foods altogether, but merely make it more difficult to overindulge in snacks day-in, day-out.

Snack trigger 8: You’re not choosing healthy snacks

Even if you were to follow all of the snack tips above, there will still be times when you need, or just want, to enjoy a snack. Perhaps you’re so hungry that you can’t concentrate at work, or maybe you’re in need of a refuel after exercise.

Then it’s time to dig in—but make it healthy! When you’re genuinely hungry, snacking on nutritious foods can provide an energy boost and curb those hunger pangs to stop you from reaching for sugary and salty foods.

Try out these easy, healthy, hunger-crunching healthy snack ideas:

  • 20g (2tbsp) Purition with yoghurt
  • Veggie sticks with hummus or nut butter
  • Black or green olives
  • Small block of cheese
  • Handful of nuts

Find out more in our guide to low-carb snacks/blogs/articles/easy-low-carb-snacks.

How to stop snacking with Purition

By cooking nourishing meals, upping your water intake, tuning into your body’s hunger cues and avoiding missed meals, you can take back control of your snacking habit. And by making an effort to fill your cupboards with healthy whole foods, any future snack sessions will sustain you for longer.

If you’re looking for a way to feel fuller for longer and avoid unhealthy snacks, try Purition. Each serving contains around 16g protein, 12g healthy fats and 6g fibre to boost your energy levels and keep your appetite curbed for 4–5 hours.

Purition served 4 ways; instant porridge, meal shake, protein balls, layered Purition yoghurt bowl.

Purition is an ultra-versatile breakfast, lunch or hunger-crunching snack and takes just 30 seconds or less to prepare. Here’s how:

  • Shake: Blend 40g Purition with 200–250ml of your favourite milk and any added extras
  • Yoghurt bowl: Mix 40g Purition into a serving of yoghurt and top with nuts and seeds
  • Instant low-carb porridge: Add a splash of hot water or milk to 40g Purition and mix well

Find out more about using Purition for weight loss or healthy eating.

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