I mentioned eating ice cream at night because snacking is not only one of my bad habits; it's my hardest one to break. If I chose to snack on nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, it'd be one thing. But chips and ice cream call my name. So why do we snack, and why do we reach for the high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods?
One simple reason: Our brains tell us to because they make us feel good. Foods high in fat and carbohydrates raise our mood by producing neurotransmitters like serotonin and anandamide. Back in prehistoric times, when eating was all about survival, it made sense for your brain to reward you for seeking out high-caloric foods. These brain chemicals work with others like opioids that can relieve stress and even physical pain [source: Smellie]. But these are temporary effects; the negatives, like feeling sluggish and guilty or even gaining weight, aren't worth it.
For those times when you're legitimately hungry between meals, the solution is to make sure you have satisfying foods on hand that will fill you up, like small amounts of nuts. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking in front of the TV, make a rule only to eat when you're focused on your food. Look for other ways to make yourself feel better -- hanging out with a friend, going for a walk or watching your favorite show on TV. If only carbs will do, keep the serving as small as you can.