Purposeful Snacking

I receive many client and reader questions about snacks. I find that these questions tend to stem from two different situations.

#1 Snacking when you are truly hungry.

#2 Snacking because you are conditioned to snacking.

Before we talk about options for healthy snacks, I would like to define the difference I see between these two situations.

In case number one, snacks are serving the purpose of satiating hunger between meals. Sometimes we do get hungry between meals, particularly if we've been active throughout the day. This, in my opinion, would qualify as purposeful snacking. 

The other type of snacking is usually prefaced with statements like this: "I just need something to snack on while I’m watching TV."  This is conditioned snacking. 

Let’s take a closer look at this statement.

Do you really need something? Are you truly hungry, or is snacking in front of the TV a conditioned behavior?

If the latter is the case, I would advise reducing or eliminating the learned behavior. Snacking in front of the TV equals mindless eating. The digital distraction takes you away from paying attention to the food you should be enjoying. I advise that eating is done without the presence of electronics. Take the time to really enjoy your food. This can’t happen while you’re watching TV.

I also know many people, myself included, who use snacking as a self-soothing or avoidance mechanism. If you’re snacking when you’re not truly hungry I often find that this is a result of the  appearance of an uncomfortable emotion, like boredom, anxiety, stress, or loneliness. Releasing this pattern starts with awareness. 


When you feel the urge to snack, stop and take a moment to tune into the present. Here are a few guiding questions you can ask:


1. Am I really hungry, so much so that a glass of water won't fill me up? (If so, skip to the healthy snacks below.)

2. Am I not actually hungry, but experiencing some other emotion? 

3. Is my previous pattern to snack when I feel this emotion?

If you answered yes to #2 or #3, you can still pick a healthy snack from the list below, but I encourage you to instead sit with the identified emotion and really feel it. If you avoid it with snacking it will come back again AND you will probably feel even yuckier for using food as an avoidance technique in the first place.  

You have the power to be aware and make different choices, I know you do! 

If you are indeed truly hungry, and water doesn't do the trick, then I have some great snack suggestions for you:

  • nuts without added oils
  • vegetables dipped in guacamole or my broccoli hummus
  • a spoonful of coconut butter or nut butter
  • a can of sardines or smoked oysters
  • boiled or deviled eggs
  • unsweetened nitrate-free jerky
  • smoked salmon
  • homemade kale chips
  • olives 

Remember to eat slowly and pay attention to when that hunger feeling subsides. 

Thoughts on snacking? I'd love to hear from you!