There’s a difference between enjoying popcorn during a movie or asking for seconds of some homemade paratha vs. downing a tray of cookies or a tub of ice cream after a rough day. So, how do you know if you’re stress eating? In some scenarios, eating a little more might be because you’re enjoying the moment. In other instances, when you’re reaching for those sweet or salty snacks while you’re upset or overwhelmed, it might be a sign that you’re stress eating.

Honestly, I get it. I’m not about to say I don’t have my favourite go-to’s. I’ve recently found alternatives to stress eating, so I don’t sit idle and munch on snacks.

How to reduce stress eating

Sometimes we go to certain foods to make us feel better. We’ve all done it. The problem is, this ends up being a temporary fix. The Heart & Stroke Foundation says that this habit can cause weight gain over time, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other diseases.

It’s hard to let go of the foods we love when we feel like it’s giving us what we want. However, reducing this eating style is possible through various ways, including deliberately paying attention to what you choose to eat or participating in mindful eating.

Keep junk food out of the house

One pro tip I can share that works for me is keeping junk food or high-calorie snacks out of the house. If it takes more effort to get it, you’ll probably take more time to think twice about it. It’s easy to reach for a snack if it’s in your cupboard but not as easy if you have to drive to the grocery store to buy it. Make unhealthy eating “harder” to do by keeping unhealthy foods out of sight. Catch my drift?

Thirst can mask as hunger 

South asian man drinking water

There are other times when I’m craving something sweet or salty, and before I rush to satisfy that want, I drink a glass of water. Sometimes you’re thirsty, but your body gives you hunger cues instead. 5-10 minutes later, I get caught up in work, talking to a friend or colleague, and realize that I wasn’t actually craving a snack at all. Test this out for yourself and see if it works for you.

Know your food triggers

If you’re noticing that you’re reaching for chips after a stressful meeting or you’re craving chocolate bars after talking to your in-laws, something is going on there. Everyone has unique circumstances and triggers that can make them feel like they need food to come to the rescue. Knowing what triggers you can help you reduce those triggers and possibly reduce that type of stress eating.

Simple exercises can reduce stress

A good stroll or a brisk walk can help you feel re-energized. Spending time outside with fresh air and nature can be like a mental reset, even just for 20 minutes. It’s refreshing, and it helps you get out of your box, literally!On the flip side, there are some other activities anyone can do, almost any time. Tommy Europe’s Any Fitness Level Exercise Videos range from stretches to some exercises you can even do with your family or kids.

Mindful breathing

South asian man breathing deeply

One helpful technique is meditation which helps you loosen up your muscles and bring your breathing to a calmer place. Taking a moment to just “be” is more satisfying than you may think. Take a deep breath, and ahh, feel that santi!

At the end of the day, men’s mental health is really important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Check out the best meditation apps to recharge, relax, and improve focus. If you feel stressed out to a point where nothing helps you find a sense of calm, you can ask for help.

Pets reduce stress

If you have pets, one of the easiest ways to let go of some bad vibes is by hanging out with them! Pets are intuitive and tend to know when their fellow humans are feeling a certain way. Walk your dog or play with your cat. Don’t have a pet of your own? Ask your friend or neighbour if you can take their dog for a walk or consider fostering a pet at your local SPCA.

Swap stress eating for healthy snacking

Healthy snacks for men

Chana dal is a great protein-dense snack that gives you a nice crunch with a delicious roasted flavour. Try to stay away from the ones loaded with too much salt or spice, and you’ll be one step closer to better snacking!

If you’re looking for something sweet, then look no further than a bowl of fruit chaat. Whether you make yours with a medley of fruit on its own or add some black pepper, chaat masala, and cumin for that sweet and spicy flavour combo, this is a great alternative to traditional sweets that are loaded with sugar.

You choose how much to eat

You can also try splitting portions. Instead of eating a bag of chips, have half the amount and then eat some cucumber slices to help fill you up. Instead of two samosas, maybe try having one samosa with a tall glass of water. You can also swap out ladoo or the ever-popular gulab jamun with fresh grapes and delicious mangoes. Remember, small changes can make a big difference!

For those of us in British Columbia, check out BC-211 for access to helpful resources. While you’re at it, why not check in on a buddy and see how they’re doing. One small step to help others can often mean a lot more than we realize.

What’s your favourite way to prevent stress eating or favourite healthy snack swap? Let us know in the comments below!

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