11 Ways To Snack Smarter

11/17/2014 08:23 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2014
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Snacking seems innocent enough. Maybe you're just a little hungry. Maybe you're bored. Maybe you want an excuse to catch up with a friend, and need something for the both of you to do.

But your snacking can easily snowball out of control due to factors you may not even realize -- like the size of your plate, or the kind of show you're watching as you eat your snack, or the timing of when you eat your snack.

Below, find 11 tips to avoid having your diet inadvertently derailed by your snacking habits:

  • Use A Bigger Fork
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    The size of your utensils could have an impact on how much you eat. According to a Journal of Consumer Research study, restaurant-goers who ate from a full plate with really big forks (20 percent bigger than a normal fork you’d find at a restaurant) ate less food and left more on their plates, compared with people eating with really small forks. University of Utah researchers noted that this could be because when people use small forks to eat, they may feel like they’re not making much progress in their meal, LiveScience reported.
  • Think Of Your Workout As Fun, Not Work
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    That's because Cornell University researchers found that when you think of exercise as work, and not play, you're more likely to eat more afterward. The study, published in the journal Marketing Letters, included adults who were led on a hike -- some of the adults were told the hike was a scenic walk to see the views, while the others were told the hike was a workout, NPR reported. Researchers found that those whose hike was framed as workout ate more chocolate pudding at lunch after the hike, compared with those who were told it was just a stroll.
  • Don't Eat While Watching The Latest Super Hero Flick
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    Sure, it's fun to have something to munch on when you plop down in front of the TV. But according to a study from Cornell University researchers, action-packed entertainment could distract you from realizing how much you're actually putting in your mouth. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, showed that people consumed 354 calories in snacks, on average, when they were watching an action movie, compared with nearly 21 calories when they were watching Charlie Rose (what most people would consider less exciting TV). “When watching highly distracting content, it may be best to avoid snacking, or use preportioned snacks rather than snacking out of a large bowl or bag," study researcher Aner Tal said in a statement. "If you want to have a huge bowl of snacks by the TV, be aware you might wind up mindlessly eating more than you’d planned, and make it a bowl of scrumptious baby carrots.”
  • Eat From A Smaller Bowl
    What you eat out of could also have an impact on the amount you consume. A 2006 study in The FASEB Journal showed that when you serve yourself cereal -- whether you’re an adult or a kid -- you’ll serve yourself more of it if you’re using a larger plate, versus a smaller plate. Blame it on something called the “Delboeuf illusion” -- which is when we’re tricked into thinking a circle is smaller if there’s more white space around it.
  • Get Some Sleep
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    Getting too few Zzs doesn’t just lead to a sluggish day — Columbia University researchers also found that it could increase calories consumed. They found that women who only got four hours sleep the night before ate 329 more calories in a nine-hour period compared with if they weren't sleep-deprived, while men ate 263 more calories when sleep-deprived. "It has an impact on cognitive restraint," study researcher Marie-Pierre St. Onge told "High-fat food is tempting, and maybe on short sleep you can't restrain yourself as well, while on full sleep you can resist more easily."
  • Don't Be A Creature Of Habit (Or At Least Be Mindful When You Are Being One!)
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    If you’re used to chowing down on popcorn in movie theaters, you may be more likely to do so even if the popcorn doesn’t taste all that good. A study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that regular movie popcorn-eaters ate the same amount of stale popcorn as fresh popcorn while sitting down to a movie (while people who didn’t consider themselves regular popcorn-eaters ate significantly less stale popcorn than fresh). Plus, the effects held true even after the study participants’ hunger was considered. But when researchers gave the participants stale and fresh popcorn in a meeting room environment, the regular movie popcorn-eaters ate less stale popcorn than fresh. "The results show just how powerful our environment can be in triggering unhealthy behavior," study researcher David Neal said in a statement. "Sometimes willpower and good intentions are not enough, and we need to trick our brains by controlling the environment instead."
  • Hide The Junk Food
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    When it comes to avoiding the junk food, the old adage holds true: Out of sight, out of mind. Cornell University researchers found that we are three times more likely to eat the first thing that we see, compared with the fifth thing we see. In that study, researchers took photographs of 100 kitchen cupboards and asked the owners to keep records of what they ate. Researchers also tried moving the food around in the cupboards to see if that impacted their food choices -- and found that it did. The research shows that "we end up being masters of our own demise, to some extent," study researcher Professor Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," previously told HuffPost.
  • Eat With Your Left Hand If You're A Righty (And Vice-Versa!)
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    Switching to eat with your non-dominant hand could help you eat less, according to research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The finding was part of the same movie-theater/popcorn study, where it was discovered that environment plays a part in mindless eating. Study participants ate 30 percent less stale popcorn if they used their non-dominant hand to eat it, compared with using their dominant hand, CNN reported.
  • Keep Fruit In Plain Sight In Your Kitchen
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    According to research described in Wanisnk's new book "Slim By Design," people who keep a fruit bowl out in their kitchens weigh 8 pounds less than the neighbors. Meanwhile, having potato chips out in the kitchen was associated with being 9 pounds heavier than the neighbors. And for women, having cereal out was associated with being 21 pounds heavier than the neighbors. While the research didn't show that keeping cereal and chips out directly causes weight gain, Wansink reasoned that people "think, 'Cereal is healthy, here's a box, let me grab a handful.'"
  • Start With A Small Snack Portion
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    If you're in need of a snack, start out serving yourself a smaller portion first -- there's a good chance it'll fulfill your hunger and/or cravings, according to research from Cornell University researchers. Researchers found that when study participants were offered 195-calorie portions of chocolate, apple pie and chips, they had the same hunger levels right after eating and the same craving scores 15 minutes after eating as people who were offered 1,370-calorie portions of the same foods.
  • Don’t Mistake Snacks For Meals
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    Even when you’re eating the same kinds of food, you’ll be more likely to eat more if your brain thinks you’re sitting down for a meal than if you’re just having a snack, according to research from Cornell University. Specifically, researchers found that when people were presented with full table settings and a drinking glass, they consumed 27.9 percent more calories of quesadillas, pizza and chicken wings than when people were given disposable utensils and had nowhere to sit while eating.

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