How to Beat the Snack Attack
By Meredith Cox, Staff Writer
It is midnight, you have been studying in the library all day, and all of a sudden it hits you – a wave of hunger that leaves you feeling famished and ravenous. You immediately bolt for the vending machine, only to be calmed by the sight of pretzels, chips, and candy bars. Does this sound familiar? In college we are surrounded by innumerable food options, making it easy to slip into harmful and unhealthy eating habits that can stick with you well into adulthood. With a few simple practices in mind, you can satisfy your hunger while maintaining a healthy diet and body.
Set yourself up for success. The easiest way to make sure you are fueling your body with healthy foods is to make them easily accessible. Stock your fridge with fruits and veggies that have a long shelf life. These include apples, oranges, and carrots, all of which are also easily transportable. Try and load up on in season produce so you can get the most bang for your buck and the most flavorful snacks. For the winter, stick to pears, clementines, grapefruit, kiwi, kale, squash, and sweet potatoes. Also, have a lot of snacks you can grab on the go, like nuts, raisins, yogurt, pretzel thins, and hummus.
Pick and Choose
There is nothing wrong with being a “picky” eater, in the sense that you are aware and selective about what goes into your body. When the healthy options are there, choose them. Do not feel pressured by others who make unhealthy choices. Pick the best option for you, and learn to know what foods make you feel the best, most satiated, and highly energized. If you are out to eat at a restaurant, choose the side salad over the side of fries to go with your burger. Simple swaps like this can really add up and leave you feeling lighter and healthier.
Not only does exercise leave you feeling better and full of energy (thank your endorphins), but it also helps curb cravings. Studies have shown that exercising can aid in stabilizing your blood glucose levels. When these levels spike or dip, it can leave you running towards the vending machine. However, moderate exercise, such as 30 minutes of cardio five times a week, can help regulate two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, to help keep your blood sugar steady, resulting in fewer cravings and ultimately less impulsive eating habits.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to bad snacking habits as well. Less sleep is usually associated with more stress, and often when we are stressed, we do not make the best food choices. That is why during finals week we find ourselves eating high-fat foods like fries, pizza, and cookies. Adequate sleep also helps maintain the hunger hormones I mentioned before. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain, ultimately suppressing appetite. Less sleep is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin, meaning you are hungrier and less satiated. Try to get between seven and nine hours a night to stay well rested.
Your eating habits do not have to be all or nothing. Treat yourself a few times a week, whether it is a Servo cookie at lunch, a scoop of ice cream after dinner, or even a late night stop at Mid Mad. But remember that these indulgences should be in moderation in order to make them feel like a real treat. A good rule of thumb to follow is the 80/20 rule: eat a healthy diet 80 percent of the time, and use the other 20 percent for special occasions and treats.
So, with a little bit of willpower and some planning, you can maintain a healthy snacking lifestyle and still enjoy those late night munchies without worrying too much about unfavorable health effects.