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How to Reduce Impulsive Eating While Sheltering In Place

With recent events forcing people to stay at home, many are worried that the stress, combined with a more sedentary lifestyle, could result in unhealthy weight gain. This worry is proven by the fact thousands of people are searching for ways to prevent it.

     Following this information, the not for profit advice specialists at discovered a huge surge in Google searches for terms related to weight loss and food:

· +190% increase in searches for ‘weight loss friendly foods’

· +80% increases in searches for ‘low calorie meals’

· +80% increases in searches related to ‘foods to avoid when trying to lose weight’

· +110% increases in searches related to ‘healthy snacks’

· +70% increases in searches related to ‘how to stop snacking at night’


     As a result, obtained comments from Alex Ruani, UCL Doctoral Researcher and Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, and from Heather Rosa, Dean of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, who provided some advice on what we can do to reduce impulsive eating habits while being at home.

     Mr Ruani explains what snacks to avoid and what we can indulge in instead:

     “We’re seeing many people reporting boredom-eating during the lockdown. But overeating is risky. Good nutrition is needed more than ever, when our immune system may need to fight back.

     The worst foods to snack on are those which provide ‘empty calories’. That is, foods that are micronutrient-poor and very low in essential vitamins and minerals – usually sugary and processed fatty foods like cakes, biscuits, crisps, milk chocolate, ice cream, and pastries.

     Some of the best foods to snack on if you don’t want to put on unnecessary weight are:

· Foods with a high-water content which makes them more filling as they delay gastric emptying (e.g. fresh fruit like grapes, apples, kiwi, melons; low-salt broth soup; homemade ‘thicker’ smoothies; corn cobs; mixed salad bowl).

· Probiotic-rich foods which are shown to have beneficial effects on the regulation of hunger-suppressing hormones GLP-1 and PYY (e.g. fat-free yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese or soft cheese; vegan and lactose-free options are tempeh, miso, sourdough bread, fermented cabbage or pickles).

· Fibre-rich foods which are not only physically filling but also help produce hunger-suppressing short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate in the gut (e.g. raw vegetable crudités, baby carrots, cucumber slices with hummus, porridge oat flakes).

· Protein-rich foods shown in countless satiation experiments to reduce our desire to continue eating (e.g. boiled eggs, fat-free yogurt, fat-free cottage cheese; vegan and lactose-free options include tofu dices, beans mix, hemp seeds, wholegrain rice cakes; dairy-free coconut yogurt).

The added benefit is that all of these alternatives are low-glycemic, too – meaning that they cause a slow sugar release into your bloodstream, which helps maintain energy and sustained focus, as opposed to making you feel lethargic or sleepy in the middle of the day.


Some tips for snacking and keeping in shape:

1. Make a plan – reduce unnecessary snacking. Be strategic about your purchases during self-isolation and use your fresh foods and those with a shorter shelf life first.

2. Hydrate first. Sipping water instead of sugary drinks is the simplest way to limit unnecessary snacking and excess calories. Besides that, we know from research that drinking water before each meal, ideally a couple of 250ml glasses, results in fewer calories eaten and a reduced likelihood of putting on weight.

3. Prioritize home-cooked family meals. Main meals remain the most important. Snacking is secondary and, in many cases, unnecessary. We’re spending more time at home, which gives new opportunities to experiment with home-cooking and to share meals together.

     Heather Rosa, Dean of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition added the following:

     “Lockdown is the ideal time to break the snacking habit. Our approach is to reduce and eliminate snacking. To do this we would focus on the main meals of the day ensuring they are nutrient-dense and low in sugar to prevent the triggers for snacking. Ensure protein at each meal along with some healthy fats for satiety and fat-soluble vitamins A, E and D. e.g. butter, cold-pressed extra virgin oil, beef dripping, goose fat and coconut oil. Plenty of colorful veggies and as the weather is warming up salad veggies.

     Most snack foods are an unholy mix of sugar or refined carbohydrates and fats often highly processed and damaged. This mix of refined carbohydrates, fats and salt rarely occur in nature – cheese (and breast milk) being the nearest. They trigger an addictive type of behavior leaving you wanting more and able to eat more, yet not feeling full. If it is within reach (even at the top of the highest cupboard) you will eventually eat it if bored!

     Sometimes the drive for a snack can be derailed by a glass of water or hot beverage – no not hot chocolate!

     Break the snacking habit, your body, especially the bit around your middle, will thank you!”



Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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