Do you ever find yourself mindlessly snacking simply to pass the time when you’re bored? If so, you’re not alone. This is a fairly common habit that many struggle to overcome; it can lead to overeating, unhealthy weight gain, and personal dissatisfaction.


It is important to be able to distinguish between real hunger and a craving to eat out of boredom. Signs that you are truly hungry include your stomach growling, a hollow/empty feeling in your stomach, or stomach pain. A quick test to see if you really are hungry would be to ask yourself if you are willing to eat vegetables or a nutritious superfood. If you find yourself only craving something specific, such as chips or ice cream, this is usually an indication that the hunger is not physical. Here are 5 tips to help you avoid eating out of boredom.


Plan meals: Creating a healthy meal plan complete with nutritious snacks can go a long way toward helping you stay on track. Meal planning and prepping makes it easy to access the whole, balanced foods you need, so you are less likely to skip meals and feel the need to snack or binge later on. By creating a routine and knowing exactly what you’re going to eat and what time of day you’re going to eat it, you can minimizes the temptation to mindlessly snack whenever you feel a craving.


Brush teeth: Brushing your teeth is a simple fix to distract you from eating when you’re bored. The residual minty taste will discourage you from popping something into your mouth right away since many foods do not taste great after brushing.


Drink water: Hydrating is not only important for overall health, but it is a great way to curb food cravings. Many people confuse thirst with hunger, so instead of reaching for a snack, first try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes. This may very well take the edge off your hunger and prevent you from eating out of boredom.


Physical activity: One of the best ways to spend time productively when you’re bored is to exercise. Rather than heading to the kitchen, go on a nice walk or do some yoga to pass the time and reap the benefits of a good workout. While mustering the motivation to exercise can be a challenge, if you lay out your workout clothes and mat ahead of time, and stick to a workout schedule, it makes it easier to dive right in.


Give it some time: Set a time, such as 20 or 30 minutes where you refrain from giving into your food craving. If you’re just bored, this “hunger” will usually dissipate. However, if you still feel hungry after waiting it out, opt for a healthy, low-calorie snack like carrot sticks or a piece of fruit. This way, you are nourishing your body and won’t feel guilty for snacking. Contact Gini Warner, Nutritionist to learn more about Eating Awareness Training.