Addressing diet, emotions, and behavioral habits are helpful strategies that people can try to reduce snacking out of boredom.

Healthy snacks can help maintain energy levels and satiety throughout the day. However, snacks in excess can be unhealthy, and it can be difficult to break the habit.

In this article, we look at 16 tips to help people stop eating when bored. These involve diet, supporting mental health, and changing a person’s behavioral habits and environment.

a person is reaching inside their fridgeShare on Pinterest
Moyo Studio/Getty Images

A person should examine their diet and how it influences when and why they snack. The following dietary tips can help a person avoid overeating when bored.

1. Make a meal plan

Planning meals may help a person avoid emotional eating, bingeing, or making unhealthy dietary choices.

People can prepare regular healthy meals and snacks to keep them satiated throughout the day, making them less likely to eat through boredom.

There are online resources, such as the MyPlate guidelines, that help plan healthy meals. Eating nutrient-dense whole foods helps a person stay satiated and avoid eating unhealthy snacks when they feel bored.

Learn more about meal plans.

2. Have regular meal times

Having regular meals may help balance energy throughout the day and avoid hunger pangs, which may trigger eating from boredom.

For example, a small 2016 study involving 11 women of moderate body weight found that six regular meals per day had more beneficial effects on metabolism and hunger than eating between three and nine irregular meals.

Regular meals increased the food’s thermic effect, which is the amount of energy the body needs to process food. This may be beneficial for weight management.

Regular meals also caused lower glucose responses, which can help balance blood sugar and hunger pangs.

3. Restock the refrigerator

If a person’s cupboards and refrigerator are full of appealing but unhealthy foods, the person may feel inclined to eat them when they feel bored.

Restocking the kitchen and pantry with healthy food and snacks can make eating through boredom less harmful and less tempting.

4. Balance blood sugar

Balancing blood sugar can help avoid dips in energy, which may trigger eating out of boredom.

It is advisable to eat regular meals throughout the day and choose the foods that do not cause blood sugar spikes.

For example, including protein and healthy fats in meals and snacks can prevent a spike in blood sugar levels, which can lead to cravings once the body has processed the glucose.

People can keep their blood sugar stable by including snacks such as:

Importantly, people should avoid consuming refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, sweet treats, and sugary drinks. The body quickly digests the sugar in these foods and tells the brain it is hungry again.

Learn more about foods that stabilize insulin and blood sugar.

5. Avoid alcohol

Research indicates that alcohol may cause people to consume more food and amplify their perception of appetite.

Therefore, it is advisable to avoid alcohol if a person has a tendency to eat when bored. Instead, they can try making a healthy beverage, such as:

Learn about the best apps to help a person stop drinking alcohol.

There can be a link between eating when bored and emotional eating.

Research suggests that emotional eating often happens as a response to loneliness, boredom, or anxiety. Therefore, taking care of one’s mental health is an essential aspect of avoiding eating out of boredom.

6. Address emotional eating

A 2015 study observes that people eat when they feel bored to escape self-awareness of negative states. As a result, they typically choose unhealthy foods. However, the researchers suggest that people may opt for healthy foods if they perceive them as “exciting.”

Addressing how someone feels when they experience boredom or have time to think, possibly with the support of a mental health professional, may help them avoid emotional eating.

Furthermore, having healthy snacks that excite the palate may help avoid consuming excess calories if a person comfort eats.

Learn about the different mental health resources available.

7. Seek support

If a person links their eating habits to how they feel psychologically, they may wish to seek support from a healthcare professional.

People who have symptoms of anxiety or depression should seek guidance from a doctor. A doctor may also refer them to a psychotherapist or counselor.

If a person thinks they are experiencing disordered eating, they should contact a doctor for support.

Additionally, people may seek extra support from their social networks, family, or friends.

Learn about the different types of eating disorders.

Mindfulness is essential in helping people become aware of their eating habits, triggers, and moods. Additionally, it can help the body regulate appetite hormones.

8. Eat mindfully

A 2020 study reports that students who ate to alleviate boredom had lower levels of mindful attention.

Additionally, some research suggests that mindful eating can positively affect leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that play a part in appetite regulation.

Individuals can try slowing down when eating, and appreciating the aromas, tastes, and textures of food to allow their body to send the signals to the brain that they are full.

Another method to eat mindfully is to count the number of chews a person makes before swallowing the food and to try to increase that number.

9. Be aware of triggers

Mindfulness can help people avoid reacting to triggers that may cause them to eat when they are not hungry.

Rather than focusing on feeling bored or any negative feelings associated with this, a person can try paying attention to their breath and being present. Mindful breathing involves noticing any thoughts or sensations without judging them, and gently bringing the focus back to the breath.

A person can try downloading a 5-minute mindful breathing exercise to have ready to play when they experience a trigger that leads them to eat.

Learn about the best apps for mindfulness.

The same environment can cause people to become bored and overeat. However, a simple change of the surroundings may be enough to stimulate the brain and improve mood.

Additionally, where someone eats can be key in regulating their appetite and when they eat.

10. Have a place for eating

If a person eats in front of the TV or computer when bored, they may overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Similarly, eating while on the go or while traveling may cause overeating and lead to unhealthy dietary choices.

While not everyone may have a table to sit at, having a dedicated space for eating where there are no screens or other distractions can help a person become more aware of what they eat and when. This strategy may also help them eat mindfully, which can regulate appetite hormones.

11. Get outside

Changing the environment by getting outside can alleviate boredom and improve a person’s mood.

For example, research suggests that vitamin D from sunshine can reduce an afternoon slump, carbohydrate cravings, and symptoms of depression when a person combines getting outside with exercise.

People can aim to get outside at least once per day, and in the winter months, they may consider using a light therapy device, which can also be effective at improving mood.

12. Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins and “feel-good” chemicals, such as serotonin, and can alleviate anxiety and stress.

Therefore, if a person is eating because they are feeling bored or down, doing some exercise may lift their mood and help them avoid eating for the sake of it.

Exercise also positively affects appetite hormones, which may make someone less likely to overeat.

Learn more about the mental and physical benefits of exercise.

Having a new interest can help prevent boredom. In addition, interests that stimulate the brain may diminish a person’s cravings for excess food.

13. Take up a hobby

People can try taking up a hobby or activity by attending a class, joining a group, or learning online.

Planning an activity at times when a person would usually eat through boredom, such as in the evening, may prove effective.

Additionally, recruiting a friend to join them may also lift a person’s mood and help them commit to sustaining the new activity.

14. Make time for treats

Instead of eating, a person can treat themselves in other ways. For example, they may consider buying flowers for the home, taking a bath with relaxing essential oils, or getting a massage or beauty treatment.

Although many people may not have the resources to treat themselves regularly, there are plenty of pleasurable things to do that are free, such as walking in nature, calling a friend, or reading a good book.

Individuals can also follow these steps to help reduce eating out of boredom:

15. Chew gum and brush the teeth

A simple strategy to stop eating when bored is to chew a piece of gum.

According to research, chewing gum can improve alertness and reduce fatigue.

Other research also notes an association between chewing gum and a more positive mood and sustained attention. Moreover, the minty flavor may cleanse the palate and make a person less tempted to snack.

Choosing sugar-free gums is better for dental health. Additionally, brushing the teeth can help a person avoid snacking after meals.

Learn how to brush the teeth without damaging them.

16. Drink water

Making sure a person is adequately hydrated throughout the day may help avoid overeating. Sometimes, people may confuse being hungry with needing to hydrate, and drinking some water may help.

A small 2018 study showed that drinking water before a test meal caused participants to eat less and feel just as full. Therefore, adequate hydration may help a person stop eating when they feel bored.

Learn about 15 benefits of drinking water.

Eating out of boredom can cause unintentional weight gain. Tips to change this habit include planning the diet, eating mindfully, and making changes to the environment in which a person eats their food.

If eating out of boredom could be a sign of disordered eating, a person should contact a healthcare professional for guidance and support.