8 tips on how to stop snacking when you are bored

Ever find yourself reaching for the biscuit tin or a bag of crisps when you’re bored, even if you’re not actually that peckish? In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons why we snack when bored and explore practical tips for breaking the habit of boredom-eating.

Looking to skip to the part where you find exactly what methods are used to prevent snacking when bored? View the table of contents below. 

Why do we eat when we’re bored? 

A survey commissioned by British Nutrition Foundation during Lockdown found that 63% of people who stated they had been eating ‘a little less healthily’ or ‘much less healthily’ during lockdown did so out of sheer boredom. 

Snacking when bored is a sign of emotional eating, where you turn to food for comfort or use it as a distraction from how you are feeling, whether that be stressed, anxious or bored. It’s used as a way to satisfy emotional needs, rather than to sate genuine hunger. When we're bored, our brains aren't being stimulated, causing our dopamine levels to drop. This triggers us to seek ways to bring it back up, such as by eating. 

How to recognise if you’re hungry or bored? 

Understanding the difference between eating because you’re hungry and eating out of boredom is key to breaking the snacking cycle.  Genuine hunger builds gradually, and you’ll likely have low energy and a ‘growling’ sensation in your stomach. When you experience cravings as a reaction to how you are feeling, then this is unlikely to be genuine hunger. 

How to break the habit of snacking 

The way to stop snacking when bored requires a combination of practical and mindful strategies, 7 of which we’ve included below: 

1. Stick to regular mealtimes 

Regular mealtimes may help stabilise energy and blood sugar levels throughout the day, enabling your body to regulate hunger cues while curbing the tendency to eat at random times which can lead to boredom snacking. 

2. Keep a food journal 

Start a food diary detailing what you eat and drink, including snacks consumed throughout the day. By documenting what you eat, along with your hunger levels and feelings, you may start to recognise patterns and triggers for boredom eating. 

3. Practice mindful eating 

Mindful eating involves being fully present while you’re eating. By paying attention to all the different textures and flavours, you’ll start to recognise true hunger cues, reducing the likelihood of snacking out of boredom. 

4. Create a meal plan 

Mapping out a structured meal plan and preparing regular healthy meals and snacks can help you avoid the craving to eat to alleviate boredom. Use the NHS’s Eatwell Guide to find healthy meals to include as part of your plan. By eating a varied diet including all the essential food groups, you’ll feel fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to indulge in unhealthy snacks when bored. 

5. Drink plenty of water 

Staying hydrated throughout the day can help your body correctly interprets thirst signals, reducing the likelihood of mistaking them for hunger cues. Having a water bottle close to hand can also provide a distraction and satisfy the hand to mouth impulse we often feel when bored. 

6. Only eat at a table 

Avoid eating anywhere other than your dining room or kitchen table. By associating food with a designated place and setting, you’ll find it easier to resist the urge to snack while watching telly or working at your desk, promoting more mindful eating habits. 

7. Brush your teeth or chew gum 

Peppermint can act as an appetite suppressant, so by brushing your teeth or chewing gum immediately after a meal, you may find it prevents the impulse to reach for snacks when you’re feeling bored or anxious.

8. Switch to healthy, nutritious snacks 

Finding it too hard to give up the snacks completely? Make sure you ditch unhealthy food such as biscuits, crisps or chocolate and add healthy snacks to your shopping list such as fruit, nuts, carrot sticks or unsalted popcorn. 

Need more advice on how to stop eating when bored? 

If you’d like further guidance on how to stop snacking when bored, LiveWell Dorset is here to help. Our team of expert coaches and advisors can help you make healthy lifestyle changes, creating personalised activity plans tailored to you and your goals.   

You’ll also find plenty of useful tools and calculators on our website, including the Habit Hacker quiz designed by our health and psychology experts for people who need a bit of extra motivation to swap sugary snacks for healthier options. Register with us today to find out more. 

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