Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic majorly shifted our lives as we abided by social distancing guidelines. Perhaps one of the most significant changes was the massive transition—for those who were able—to working from home indefinitely. Seventy-one percent of Americans have reported working from home during the pandemic, an increase from just 20% pre-pandemic.
For those who had the privilege of making that transition, going from commuting and working in a specific outside location to spending nearly all of one’s time at home has disrupted many daily routines, including those related to our eating habits. In fact, IFIC’s September 2020 Consumer Survey: Eating and Shopping During a Global Pandemic found that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, one in three (36%) reported snacking multiple times a day (up from 24% who reported doing so earlier that year), 33% said they were snacking more often when bored or not hungry, and 32% said they were eating more snacks alone.
Even as the rate of vaccinations in the U.S. continues to rise, for now working (and snacking!) remotely seems to here to stay. So how can you better mindfully snack at home, with a pantry and fridge constantly at your fingertips?
1. Figure out what you’re looking for.
For most of us, working from home means having more consistent access to food than in a typical office setting—a reality that isn’t something to be anxious about, but it is helpful to be aware of. If you suddenly find yourself in front of your pantry, take a moment to check in and ask yourself what you’re looking for. Are you hungry, or are you simply looking for a distraction or a moment of me-time? If you are hungry, are you looking for something sweet, salty, or savory? Do you want a crunchy or chewy texture? The answers to these questions can help you decide whether it’s actually time for a snack or not—and if so, help you determine which nutritional needs, tastes and textures you’re looking to satisfy.
2. Check in with your hunger.
Once you’ve figured out whether or not it’s time to snack and what kind of food you want, it’s time to figure out how much you need. A hunger scale can help with this decision. Take a moment to figure out where you are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 feeling “starving” and 10 feeling “stuffed.” If you find yourself around a 3 or a 4, try eating a small snack and check in with your hunger until you reach about a 6 (“satisfied”). If you find yourself closer to a 1, it might be better to opt for a full meal.
3. Take time to notice your food.
Mindful eating is the practice of being present during snacks and meals. Mindful eating includes noticing the smell, taste and texture of food; reducing the speed of your eating so you can better focus on your food; responding to food choices without guilt; and becoming aware of physical hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues to decide what, when and how much to eat. Due to its emphasis on self-compassion and nonjudgmental language around food, mindful eating may help you form a healthier relationship with food. For example, when choosing snacks, focus on the food you’d like to eat and eliminate distractions while you’re eating it. Pay attention to how the food tastes and smells, and how it makes you feel during the snack and after. Eating mindfully during meals and snacks may prevent overeating, reduce emotional eating, and curb eating when bored.
4. Build a satisfying snack.
A satisfying snack can help keep you full and satisfied while providing a variety of nutrients. Snacking can also be a way to add in more nutritious foods that you may not have included in recent meals. Some satisfying snack options include yogurt and berries, trail mix, seaweed and brown rice salad, cheese and whole grain crackers, salsa and whole grain tortilla chips, vegetable spring rolls, roasted chickpeas and sliced fruit, or an apple and peanut butter. The options are endless, so have some fun—explore new combinations!
Even as the world slowly opens back up, working from home—in some capacity for some people—will likely remain a part of our new workforce landscape. But that doesn’t mean our eating habits, including snacking, have to cause additional stress. While at home, practice intentionality, plan ahead and embrace mindfulness as you make food choices.
This article was written by Alyssa Pike, RD, with contributions from Myranda Vig, UMD Dietetic Intern.