How to manage mindless snacking from your pandemic home office

If you struggle with mindless snacking, taking a daily break for a proper lunch and keeping filling, fiber-rich fruit on hand are two ways to help avoid going overboard.

(CNN)The new year brings with it some old circumstances: working from home, self- isolating again, and having close access to food almost all of the time.

Some of us may enjoy more home-cooked meals and not having to walk too far for a snack, but working close to the refrigerator poses a challenge to maintaining healthy eating habits. Rest assured, there are ways to minimize mindless snacking and filling up on empty calories, even when you can't socially distance from your kitchen cabinet.
After years of nutrition counseling, I see that that my clients' judgment about their eating is a big predictor of future behaviors. If you berate yourself for overeating, it can cause you to go down a spiral of feeling bad, which can lead to more emotional eating. On the flip side, being gentle with yourself can help you establish a healthier mindset when it comes to indulgences, and this can allow for a more balanced lifestyle.
    I have found that incorporating mindful strategies around eating -- which aren't about judgment -- can be very helpful for those struggling with "unconscious" eating. Below are some practical tips that can help you minimize unnecessary snacking and get the most enjoyment from food.

      Stop, think, eat

      Before grabbing that cookie or bag of chips, stop and ask yourself, "Do I really want this now?" or "Am I craving this food because I'm hungry or because I'm bored or stressed?" Think it through -- If you do want a snack, go for it. But if your answer is no, you've stopped yourself from excessive nibbling. The idea is to make the choice to eat a conscious decision.
      The hunger meter is a tool that incorporates the "stop, think, eat" strategy, as it allows you to pause and gauge your level of hunger before eating. If you are reaching for a snack but realize that you are not really hungry, you may be craving something else, according to Wendy Sterling, a registered dietitian and coauthor of "How to Nourish Your Child Through an Eating Disorder." Try going for a walk, taking a shower, calling a friend, or taking a nap.

        Fill your kitchen with fiber-rich foods

        It's pretty difficult to mindlessly munch on high-fiber foods like vegetables, salads and fruits. That's because fiber contributes "bulk" and fills you up quickly. Fiber-rich foods also help to keep your blood sugar levels steady, which can help prevent impulsive snacking and overeating at meals.
        A fresh salad with feta, olives and capers is rich in fiber, helping to fill you up and reduce snack cravings.