An alternative to snacking
April 27, 2011 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Is there an alternative to snacking that one can do while they focus on something else?

I eat/drink a lot during the day to help myself concentrate on things like homework, tv, movies, books, etc. Basically, I'll snack during anything that requires my extended attention because it helps me focus/sit through it and keeps me "grounded." Without it I get up a lot, get distracted easily, and generally take longer to get things done.

I'm looking for a healthier alternative to food/drink. Something I don't really have to concentrate on and that I can take with me to most places, something I can do with my hands would also be a plus. I've tried gum in the past, but it's way too sweet for me. I've also tried chewing on ice but it didn't stick. I've tried knitting, which seems like it would be great but I kinda got stuck learning how to do it.

Any other suggestions?
posted by biochemist to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I have a stainless steel Camelbak water bottle that has a straw with a bite valve. I didn't really intend for this to happen, but I noticed once I started keeping that on my desk, filled with water, I did a whole lot less mindless snacking. I think something about the bite valve satisfies my urge to idly chew on things and I don't stray off looking for food.
posted by adiabat at 3:08 PM on April 27, 2011

Also, unsweetened iced tea if you want a healthy drink with some taste (fruit-flavored green or herbal teas are quite nice).

I also do a pen twirl quite well now, after a lot of practice.
posted by lizbunny at 3:12 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I eat a LOT of carrots.

Warning: If you have a very resonant head, like I do, chewing carrots can be annoying to office mates, though not as annoying as ice.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:16 PM on April 27, 2011

Best answer: Tea Tree Chewing Sticks. These things are so good they helped me quit smoking.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Gum and always having water around has helped me.
posted by msbutah at 3:35 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Greek worry beads [Kombolói] are very nice to slide back and forth on the string, and flip around your fingers. Wikipedia has suggestions for different patterns of movement. I suggest beads made of wood or stone that offer pleasure to your fingertips-- not plastic. In order for a kompoloi to be functional as a toy, they should consist of an odd number of beads, with a sum always equal to a modulus of four, plus one. So functional kompolois are only those with (4x4)+1=17, or (5x4)+1=21 etc beads.

Also, interlocking take-apart or labyrinth puzzles made of wood; Wire or string Disentanglement puzzles.

People would be so curious and full of envy to see how busy & happy you are!!
posted by ohshenandoah at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I saw the sticks but I didn't see chewing gum mentioned as something you've tried.

I drink lots of water during the day.

On preview: the call is coming from inside the house!
posted by safetyfork at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2011

The pen spinning page is not an enthusiast's page. Learn to do the helix and fingerspin and such, too.
posted by curuinor at 4:18 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I tend toward sipping hot, unsweetened tea myself. A teapot and tea cozy keeps it warm, pouring small teacups full gives me something physical to do, along with sipping the tea itself. Stopping to put on the kettle and make another teapot full is a nice, time-limited break to stand, shake myself out, rest my eyes, and rest my concentration for a minute.

I'm also a fan of knitting to occupy my hands and a pinch of concentration. If you give that another try, I found the videos at quite useful when I started knitting. Once you get the hang of it, TechKnitting is more advanced, but has in detail explanations of all sorts of technical issues.

Another option for occupying your hands is unit origami. Folding the individual units doesn't take too much concentration, just a bunch of time folding. Putting them all together can wait until you have the time/space/concentration, but occupies much less of the time. And then you have interesting sculptures.
posted by JiBB at 4:25 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you decide to go with carrots, and the noise is a concern, you can try parboiling them. They get softer and less crunchy, and I think they taste even better than raw carrots. You do risk losing nutrients, though.
posted by charmcityblues at 4:56 PM on April 27, 2011

Silly Putty!
posted by iliketolaughalot at 5:04 PM on April 27, 2011

I suck on ice during the day (no chewing... it sets my nerves on edge). It's somewhat satisfying. Still, although I haven't smoked in 20 years, I miss it almost every day. It's such a nice thing to do with your hands.
posted by math at 5:12 PM on April 27, 2011

I'm a big fan of string things. If knitting didn't work out for you, how about crochet (as mentioned above), tatting, or spinning? Spinning can be done with a small drop spindle and it's deeply satisfying and relaxing.
posted by KathrynT at 5:49 PM on April 27, 2011

My grandmother used to say that I had a terminal case of ants in the pants.

I almost always have some little piece of junk to noodle around with under those types of circumstances--often a twist tie or a few-inch-long scrap of yarn or fiber. Sometimes I doodle, but if I have a pen and no reason to write I'm more likely to take it apart and put it together again. I also knit and spin but those are sometimes too distracting. Same with drawing mazes.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:12 PM on April 27, 2011


I'm serious. I used to hate flossing, until I realized that what I really hated was standing in the bathroom watching myself floss in the mirror. Now I floss while I watch TV or read online news. Much more pleasant.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:40 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a deck of cards I shuffle and cut and riffle at my desk. I work at home alone. That shuffling might be annoying to others, I guess, if others were around.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:46 PM on April 27, 2011

Sunflower seeds do it for me. When I need to concentrate, I need those seeds in my mouth!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:55 AM on April 28, 2011

Cat's cradle. It's really easy to carry a loop of string with you anywhere, and gives you something fidgety to do with your hands.
posted by Brody's chum at 9:59 AM on April 28, 2011

I came in to recommend knitting (I did most of my reading in college while making socks), but another thing that works for me is pipe cleaners. They're inexpensive (you can find them at the Dollar store), and you can make fun sculptures with them.
posted by linettasky at 11:48 AM on April 28, 2011

I didn't realize how much idle snacking I did 'til I've started really working at losing weight. I now keep all my snacks far away from anywhere I sit and concentrate on work for an extended period, so I can't do it idly. I definitely get fidgety as a result.

My replacement(s) for the snacking take two forms: something handsy to mess with and something for the oral fixation. My handsy things vary - paper clips, rubber bands, an old padlock. Just something to interact with.

The other big thing I do is keep a full glass/refillable bottle of water with me all the time. I drink sooo much water, and the more I'm concentrating, the more I drink as a tiny distraction. It works to keep me from snacking - surprisingly well.

The downside? I have to pee every 12 seconds.
posted by Rallon at 12:04 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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