Ode to Snacking...but More Practical Than Poetic
A question that frequently comes up when I talk about disorderly eating is, "What do you do when you feel like eating everything in sight?"
My honest answer is, "Sometimes I eat everything in sight."
The past week provides a timely example....
For some reason unbeknownst to me, I felt ravenous for pretty much two full days. It felt like I could eat everything edible within a 5 mile radius of my house. Coming home on Wednesday, I took a pretty good run at it by making a bee-line to the pantry. My favourite healthy chocolate. A handful of almonds. A coconut date bar. Some bean chips. A piece of toast with blackberry chia jam. Then a second one.
It seemed like I couldn't be full or satisfied.
The next morning, a contributing reason for the speed-snacking episode became apparent when my period started early. I can't say for sure that swirling hormones "made me do it," but I have noticed a pattern of calorie-hunting that coincides with monthly cycles. On a different occasion, I might feel driven by some anxiety about pressures at work, or boredom, or old habits of avoiding housework by getting hungry all of a sudden.
The point is, I did eat everything in sight, sort of. Please note the operative phrase here: in sight.
One of the hands-down best changes I made early on in my quest for peace with food was to limit temptation about snacky foods by getting rid of them and stocking my shelves, fridge, freezer, and handbag with "the good stuff."
By "good stuff" I mean foods that:
- Are low in processed sugars.
- Deliver a nutritional "pow" through vitamins, minerals and quality protein and fats.
- Are as whole as they can be.
- Taste good to me.
Spend some time reading the labels on your go-to "junk foods." Check for any ingredients you wouldn't readily find in an open-air market. If you don't know what an ingredient is, look it up. Compare the ratio of calories to nutrients or processed sugars to naturally occurring ones. Give yourself a calm reality check about who you choose to spend your snacking time with -- allies or the opposite.
EVEN GENTLER SUGGESTION:
Give away, get rid of or phase out foods you habitually over-indulge in. Replace them with healthier versions or new options altogether. Perhaps consider some of the foods in the list that follows.
TWELVE (PLUS ONE) ALTERNATIVES TO TYPICALLY JUNKY FOODS
~ Instead of doughnuts, make whole-grain toast with a little honey-butter you whipped up yourself.
~ In place of nachos with that melty cheese-ish topping, make a bowl of fresh salsa and scoop it with whole-grain tortilla chips.
~ To satisfy your Nutella craving, thoroughly blend together 2 T. almond butter, 1 T. raw cacao (cocoa) powder, and 1/2 ripe avocado. Sweeten to taste with a bit of agave syrup, real maple syrup or honey. This makes a great dip for banana or apple slices or strawberries.
~ Instead of toaster pastries, stick with whole-grain toast and a lighter, all-natural jam.
~ To satisfy your apple pie craving, cut up several juicy apples and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. That's it: no crust, no baking, no sugar. You'll love how juicy and tasty they are.
~ Amaze yourself with oatmeal porridge in the place of sweetened cereals. Prepare a serving or pot according to package instructions, then adorn it with dried fruits, seeds, nuts, chopped fresh fruit and berries, shredded coconut, and a drizzle of natural sweetener like honey or crushed fruit jam made with chia seeds and a natural sweetener.
~ Experiment with whole-food chocolate. There are several brands that don't contain artificial ingredients or sweeteners. I enjoy Green & Black's as a treat.
~ Instead of artificial flavours in your popcorn, try this: pop a lovely big bowl, preferably with an air popper. Melt a reasonable amount of butter and an equal amount of coconut oil together. Drizzle over the popcorn. Sprinkle on a little sea salt or, for a cheese-like tang, dust the popcorn with nutritional yeast flakes/powder and a little sea salt. The nutritional yeast packs complete protein and vitamin B12, an important nutrient we are often lacking in our diets.
~ No time for a meal? Try whipping up a sturdy serving of hummus to scoop with celery and carrot sticks, raw sweet peas, or slices of jicama or cucumber. Or, for some high carb energy and complete protein, accompany your hummus with black bean chips or whole-grain pita wedges. (Quickest hummus recipe on the planet: Drain a can of chickpeas, rinse them, and blend or process together with 2 tsp. almond or peanut butter, a clove of minced garlic, a splash of lemon juice, a sprinkle of ground cumin and sea salt to taste. Whip it good, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and top with a blush of paprika.)
~ Rich, sweet treat in an instant? Enclose raw almonds in chewy, pitted dates. Better than chocolates, any day, IMO.
~ In lieu of pop, lemonade or other sugar-laced beverages, try these simple, elegant, refreshing iced teas: start with a fruity or minty variety of herbal tea, steep in hot water, sweeten with agave, honey or stevia, allow to cool, and serve over ice. My favourites? Lemon-mint, ginger peach, or rosa jamaica (hibiscus).
~ Smoothies made with fresh and/or frozen fruit best milkshakes for nutrition and taste any day. In a sturdy blender, start with frozen banana chunks and an appropriate amount of juice, herbal tea, or water to assist in the blending process. Add flavourful fruits, a handful of baby spinach or kale, and a touch of natural sweetener, if needed. My current faves? Banana-cherry-chocolate (I add a tsp. of raw cacao powder to a frozen banana and sweet cherries) and a "sunshine blast:" banana, carrot juice, frozen pineapple, frozen mango, a piece of leftover cooked sweet potato, a nip of lemon juice, and a touch of sweetener.
~ Wholesome, homemade granola. This can be a quick breakfast powerfood, a take-and-go snack, or a nutty-delicious topping on a bowl of fruit-based smoothie. Search for a recipe that incorporates your favourite combos of oats and other rolled or flaked grains, natural sweeteners and high-quality oil, seeds and nuts, and flavour-packed dried fruits. After combining, toast on the lowest oven heat possible to preserve nutrients. I have a great dehydrator and let my granola basically air-bathe at 105 degrees Fahrenheit for a whole day. My family and co-workers love it!
WHICHEVER WAY YOU CHOOSE TO SNACK, REMEMBER TO GO SLOWLY, SAVOURING EACH BITE OR SIP. Let the food you want be an experience that leaves you satisfied, rather than one that invites guilt, tummy pain from overeating or overindulging, or longing for "that something more" to actually feed your physical/emotional need.
Snacking doesn't have to be a negative.
Healthier snacking can actually be a huge contribution to taming disorderly eating habits and coming to peace with food.
Just supply yourself with "the good stuff," make time to take pleasure in the tastes and textures of your chosen foods, and skip the serving of guilt.
Over time, you'll uncover your disorderly eating triggers, develop a repertoire of powerful in-between-meal foods, and recognize that moderation in quantity and extravagance in quality are just as satisfying as any previously binge-inducing food had been. Plus, you'll have lots of high-quality foods in sight.
Enjoy your week! And do feel free to share your "good stuff" with me. Just email the description or recipe to: heather (at symbol) heatherburton (dot) ca. (With no spaces.) My hope is to feature your healthy eating ideas in future send-outs.