When you’re stuck inside during winter, it’s very easy to reach for snack foods. We’ve all done it; it’s part of our biology. During this time of year, the body works harder using more energy trying to keep you warm, so your desire to eat more comes from your body’s natural increase in energy use. Unfortunately, this increase in appetite can be complicated by “quarantine snacking,” an unfortunate side effect of being bored or anxious and stuck at home.

In a perfect world, snacks help us get from one meal to the next and do not replace them. However, each day is different and you may need more energy from snacks if you’re on the move and quite busy. While snack food sales increased at the beginning of pandemic lockdowns, it’s important to remember to limit your amounts of processed junk food snacks and practice portion control. Processed foods are filled with large quantities of unhealthy saturated fats and high amounts of salt, calories, and added sugars, which can lead to increased blood sugar (raises the risk for diabetes), constipation, or an increased LDL cholesterol level (raises the risk for heart disease).

Here are some important things to remember in order to eat healthier snacks.

  • Keep junk food out of the house and remove temptation.

  • Stock your shelves with healthy snack foods such as fat-free Greek yogurt, fruits and veggies, nuts, hummus, or whole wheat crackers.

  • Plan your snacks in advance, so you’ll be more likely to eat more healthily.

  • Before snacking, ask yourself whether you’re hungry or just thirsty. A good test is to drink an eight-ounce glass of water and then wait 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re still hungry, then have a healthy snack.

  • Know your reasons for snacking. Are you truly hungry or are you lonely, bored, or stressed? Try to address these problems first before reaching for a snack.

  • Don’t skip meals. Doing this can make you hungry later in the day.

  • Don’t eat straight from the packaging, as you may be likely to eat more than a single serving. Instead use portion control by putting your snack on a plate or dish.

  • Eat mindfully by turning off the TV, putting down your phone, and paying attention to your snack.

  • Plan ahead and keep a healthy snack in your bag or car for cravings away from home so you don’t head to vending machines or the convenience store when hungry.

In short, more filling amounts of healthier snacks can cut back on those unwanted side effects processed foods have. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.