How to stop cracker snacking before bed?
September 26, 2018 7:12 AM   Subscribe

How to stop before-bed cracker attack?

Every night before bed, I do some kitchen chores - unload the dishwasher, set up the coffee, etc. -- for about 25 minutes. During that time -- and that time only! -- I go absolutely bananas with eating crackers. It's like I do one part of the chores (put away a few things), then have some crackers, then do another part, then hit the closet for crackers, etc. The amount I eat seems to be increasing over time, also.

I don't feel especially "addicted" or "compelled" to do this - I just kind of mindlessly do it, like a routine. If I think about it, I can usually stop for a night or two, but then I find myself doing it again a week or so later. If I try to "replace" the crackers with a healthy snack - like nuts - I usually eat the nuts and then more crackers.

I generally eat pretty healthily throughout the day and get exercise. No real snacks or junk other than this. I think I would lose some weight if I could cut this out.

I can't just get rid of all the crackers because they are actually for my kids, not me!

Any good strategies for this? Thanks
posted by Mid to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Floss and brush your teeth earlier in your before-bed routine, so you're less tempted to eat afterward.
posted by asperity at 7:16 AM on September 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

I don't mean this to sound snarky but have you considered not buying crackers, at least until this habit is broken? Sometimes it takes something like that for me to change things up.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:25 AM on September 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

I don't mean this to sound snarky but have you considered not buying crackers, at least until this habit is broken? Sometimes it takes something like that for me to change things up.

OP stated that this is not an option: "I can't just get rid of all the crackers because they are actually for my kids, not me!"
posted by slipthought at 7:28 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

What helped me with evening snacking was deciding to do intermittent fasting - I just don't eat after 7:00 at night. The first week was hard, but now it's just what I do. I did it for health benefits (breast cancer patients who don't eat for 13 hours a day had a 40% decrease in recurrence), but I also lost some weight and had a huge improvement in insomnia. And it made me feel like I had way more free time in the evenings.

(I also recognize that I have to be absolute about food. If I let myself have two crackers, I'd end up having twenty. So the only way for me to deal with it is to have a hard line.)

(Also, do the kids actually need the crackers? They're not really good for them either. If they're really hungry, they'll eat what's there - even if it's baby carrots.)
posted by FencingGal at 7:31 AM on September 26, 2018 [10 favorites]

Can you store the crackers somewhere it would be annoying to get to - the kids' room, maybe?
posted by ChuraChura at 7:38 AM on September 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

Can you alternate with fruit? Like, cracker - slice of apple - cracker - slice of apple. Something similarly crunchy but not as dense as, say, nuts.
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:45 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

The amount I eat seems to be increasing over time, also.

Are you buying the giant Costco tub of crackers (or similar) because your kids and you eat so many?

Perhaps, to start weaning yourself off, you figure out what is a reasonable amount, and at the start of the week portion out a week's servings for you (and your kids?) into baggies. If you can limit yourself to that size portion every night for a week, that's a good discipline step.

It might be perfectly ok for your dietary needs to eat 100 calories of crackers every night, if it makes you happy and you're doing fine otherwise. I'm food motivated too, but moderation is important in many things. Getting portion under control (so you can, if you choose, in the future cut the amount down) is a good small step.

Maybe, some nights, you introduce a different reward for the important tasks you've done in the day. Maybe, you have some nice raw veggies that have a nice crunch to them, or an exact number of yummy almonds. If you just want crunch at the end of the day, is celery appealing?
posted by enfa at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

You could try putting a picture of your kids on the crackers with a cartoon bubble saying these are their crackers.
posted by advicepig at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've had a lot of luck with tea. Like all kinds of fancy tea. My friend got me "a tasting of ten teas" from trader joe's, which is 10 kinds of loose tea in little test tube things. You just slap some in a tea ball, drop it in a mug, heat water, and go! It helps if you can manage expectations, like, "this is not because it tastes great or is pleasurable or anything. I'm developing my palate." Have you considered that you may be setting your children up for a lifetime of crackerthrall so that when they're your age, they'll be wondering why crackers have such a terrible hold on them? What if they remember your struggle and wonder why you didn't act to prevent their agonies? If you stop now, they may forget the appeal of crackers.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:52 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a chronic before bed cracka snacka, the only thing that worked for me was just going to bed earlier, so snack time never arrives. You might try changing up your schedule so you’re doing as little as possible at the end of the night, if snacking is linked to chore-ing.
posted by rodlymight at 7:53 AM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Despite the "they're for my kids" part....they could also probably frankly do without them. I'd agree with the "don't have them". (I say this with a kid who loves crackers. )
posted by annabear at 7:54 AM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Go to bed earlier, wake up earlier. Do the chores in the morning.
posted by JamesBay at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another vote for brushing teeth and flossing right after dinner. I am much less likely to snack when I do this, and once I got in the habit, this routine signals that I’m done eating for the day.
posted by bookmammal at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2018

Put the crackers in a really annoying place that you have to take multiple steps to access. For example, put them in the basement on a high shelf that you need a stepstool to reach and you keep the stepstool in another part of the house. Maybe start with a lower barrier, like just keeping them in another room, and increase difficulty of access as needed. If you share the house with another adult, have them hide the crackers and provide them to the kids. Perhaps ask for a tithe of crackers as you ween yourself off of them.
posted by Mizu at 8:56 AM on September 26, 2018

Are you possibly a bit hungry? Maybe if you added a little more fat and protein and fiber at/after dinner, carbs wouldn't appeal.
posted by kapers at 9:09 AM on September 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

My night-time kitchen chore time is much improved with less snacking if I chew gum.
posted by coevals at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is sort of a weird suggestion, but what about substituting your crackers for Nut-Thins? I bought a box of these when I had a gluten-free friend over, but then they were so good that I kept buying them for myself. Nutty, but with a snap/crunch like a real cracker - and each one of them has fewer than 10 calories.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:30 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure if these are available where you live, but on your way to picking up the kids each day can you buy small packets of crackers that are just enough for your kids THAT DAY so that there's none left for you by the time night comes?

This is what I do for myself with certain items. I can't have big containers of sweets at home because I will eat the whole thing in one sitting.
posted by fantasticness at 9:32 AM on September 26, 2018

As rodlymight and JamesBay also note above, I was going to suggest tweaking your overall routine - that's the only thing that ever works for me in terms of behavior modification. For example, at night I love nothing more than lying on the couch, reading a book and eating popcorn. Which is fine, but possibly not fine (calorie-wise) every single night. So most of the time I try to read in bed, where I don't/won't eat, and that helps.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:40 AM on September 26, 2018

All these ideas are great and I think a combination could really help. If not buying the crackers is a nonstarter, see if the crackers come in individual packs. Then you can keep track better of how much you snack on. So tell yourself you get one a night and the rest are for the kids. If you must have the pack of crackers, eat them before you start your chores, then brush your teeth/floss, then do the chores. I agree that upping fat/protein at meal time is a good idea and probably the way end the habit altogether. Make sure you have enough satisfying calories at meal time and then brush/floss before starting chores. After a while you won't miss the crackers.
posted by LKWorking at 10:03 AM on September 26, 2018

I think it’s time to try some crackers that are more challenging. You don’t mention what kind of crackers you have, but if they’re like Triscuits, Wheat Thins or saltines, then they are pretty much designed by Big Food for mindless gorging. Have you considered something more hearty, with lots of whole grain, seeds, and fiber? If you try something like Ak-Mak, Wasa, or something similar that’s been around collecting dust since 1978 in old school health food stores, I’m pretty sure your jaw will get tired of all that chewing long before the mindless part sets in.
posted by oxisos at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Try the little-dead-fish + peanuts snack available at many Chinese groceries? Sometimes they also mix in little rice crackers and wasabi peas and so on, but you can get straight dead fish and peanuts. It's a million times more interesting to eat than crackers. Those ruinously pricey little seaweed leaflets, too. You could make a rule that you have to eat an entire bag of deadfishsnacks plus a box of seaweed leaves before you touch a single cracker. (But really, the only thing that works for me is a no solid food after sunset rule.)
posted by Don Pepino at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2018

It sounds like might either be hungry (in which case, finding another food that is satiating but better fits into your diet could help) or you're tired and using carbs to help power through the evening chores. If the latter, maybe the evening chores could be shifted to closer to dinner time, so you can go to bed earlier or do other relaxing things before bed?
posted by metasarah at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2018

I am you, down to exactly the same timings whilst clearing up at night, sometimes with savoury crackers but more often with ends of bread. Living in France means that there is pretty much always a few inches of baguette or the like hanging around. Fresh-ish, mmmm butter or peanut butter; stale, no worries, vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and chili flakes.

The urge to feed this habit is strong, but I've also noticed that if I've drunk any alcohol at all earlier in the night it becomes almost impossible to resist.

Seconding FencingGal above, intermittent fasting is the only way I've found to fully cut this out. For me, an 18 hour / 6 hour basis works, eating lunch at 1200 and dinner at 1730, finishing by 1800, and then nothing at all (no breakfast except tea / coffee) until lunch the next day. I do this 4 or 5 days a week, and even on "off" days am able to not snack at night almost all the time. When I've broken, it's always been that same earlier alcohol consumption that's been there as a smoking gun.

Weight loss benefits - which were needed - have been significant, and I find after just a couple of days my gut (haha) response to food, carbs particularly, completely changes. Learning / remembering the difference between "being hungry" and "wanting to eat" is the best way I could summarise the sensation.

Having said all that, I believe that fasting is very much a case of YMMV;there's a wide range of suggested timings, and innate differences in metabolism make it a less viable / effective / advisable option for some people. I'd suggest reading around first if you think taking it up might work for you.
posted by protorp at 1:00 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are you eating them out of the box? That’s a recipe for eating an indeterminate amount of just one more. We put snacks in small bowls in our house, and it helps make everything less mindless.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:18 AM on September 27, 2018

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