We’ve all been there. We go for the chips thinking we’ll just have a few and before we know it, half the bag’s gone, and we don’t even feel like we’ve eaten anything!
What’s the deal? Why are potato chips so addicting?!?
Salt, Sugar, and Fat
First of all, there’s a lot of science going on in our brains and mouths when we eat things like chips, cookies, candy, and all that kind of stuff, as we’re basically hardwired to crave those kinds of foods. They’re carb-heavy and laced with salt, fat, and sugar, which is a magical combination that makes our brains and taste buds light up when we eat them, releasing a cascade of dopamine neurons that lead to feelings of pleasure, begging us to want more and more. Hence the reason why so many people reach for chocolate to help calm them down when they’re feeling stressed, sad, or angry and why it’s so easy to get into the habit of turning to food to cope.
On top of this, food manufacturers invest millions in figuring out the perfect combination of flavors, mouth feel, texture, crumble, and so on to make these already tempting treats even more powerful! So while yes, we’re are all responsible for our food choices, there are some other factors at play when it comes to these types of foods, which, let’s just say, don’t exactly help us to eat less, and we need to be aware of them.
Protein and Fiber
While there are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to satiety, hunger, why we eat in general, and our cravings, what I want to focus on here deals with a food’s fiber and protein content, and their ability to fill us up and keep us full for longer periods of time.
Protein is by far the most satisfying of the macronutrients, due to it’s ability to suppress hunger by releasing satiety hormones, making you feel, yes, satisfied. Fiber is magical for it’s ability to expand in your belly, by adding volume and bulk, which is why you’re going to fill up quickly when you throw down a turkey sandwich on whole wheat. And I don’t know what kind of chips you’re buying, but the ones I eat aren’t known for their fiber or protein content.
Even if you were to snag a box of whole wheat crackers it doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to chow the whole box. These types of foods, in general, are super easy to overeat because of their carb-y makeup and added salt, which is why I always try to encourage my clients not to reach for this kind of stuff when they’re hungry. And, while the fiber-y versions of these foods are a plus, I wouldn’t rely solely on its ability to quiet your hunger. I can easily throw back a package of the wheatiest crackers and still not feel like I’ve really eaten much, which is why we need that protein!
The Power of Protein
Think of protein as your anchor. Without a doubt, when I add protein to my meals I’m significantly more satisfied, I fill up faster, and I stay fuller for longer. I am always recommending to clients that they add protein at every meal and snack, and people have told me that it’s made a huge difference in not only how they feel, but how much less likely they are to snack! Because if you just have a bowl of cereal at breakfast, I can almost guarantee you’re going to be reaching for snacks up until lunch. Even just adding a small amount of protein can make a big difference. Here are a few quick options that would be super easy to add to any meal or snack.
- 1-2 hard boiled eggs
- 1-2 cheese sticks
- Protein powder- I throw this stuff into my smoothies to round it out as a meal
- Handful of nuts
Give Up the Chips?
Not necessarily, but perhaps go about snacking in a different way. I don’t tell my clients to give up foods, instead I show them how to find balance with all meals and snacks, and help direct them to figure out if what they’re eating leaves them feeling the way they want or is producing the results they’re looking for.
One tip I do offer is to avoid going straight for the chips when you’re hungry. These salty treats are easy to overeat on their own but you throw in a hungry belly and you’ll likely have to eat these by the handfuls before feeling satisfied, and by that point, you’ve probably taken in quite a bit more carbs and calories than you need at that time. On top of that, you still probably won’t really feel like you’ve eaten! Which is why we can all down the basket of chips when we’re out eating Mexican and still able to eat all our dinner!
- KIND bars
- Whole wheat bread smeared with some peanut butter
- Handful of whole wheat crackers and a couple slices of cheese
- Banana with peanut butter
Need some more guidance? I’d love to help you, find out more here.
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