Things to do Instead of Eating (Dietitian-Approved Tips)

If you’re here, you’re looking for a list of things to do instead of eating. Maybe you’re eating because you’re bored, you’re looking for alternatives to stress eating, or maybe you’re simply finding yourself eating when you’re not actually hungry.

Let’s dive into actionable things you can do instead of eating the next time the urge to eat when you’re not hungry hits. We’ll also cover why your urge to eat when you’re not hungry feels so strong in the first place. 

A hand grabbing some chips out of a chip bag.

What to do when the urge to eat hits when you’re not hungry

When you feel hit with boredom, stress, or emotional eating urges, you have two options.

  1. Eat! The first option is to simply eat something! Even if you know it’s not real hunger, I recommend prioritizing a balanced snack if you can. It will help you listen to your fullness faster and prevent overeating. Remember, eating to meet an emotional need is normal sometimes! It happens, it’s normal, and we all do it. 
  1. Remove yourself from your kitchen and do something else instead of eating. I recommend thinking about this as a re-evaluation strategy. Then, commit to whatever coping mechanism you choose for at least 15-30 minutes before re-evaluating. You may find that breaking the habit of moving right to food when you’re bored is exactly what you need. Here are some great options to keep in your back pocket next.

45 Things to do instead of eating

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Call a friend
  3. Text a friend
  4. Journal about your day
  5. Make a hot cup of tea
  6. Knit or crochet
  7. Give yourself a mini facial
  8. Paint your nails
  9. Paint your toes
  10. Start a puzzle
  11. Scroll on social media
  12. Start a new show
  13. Watch a movie
  14. Make a grocery list
  15. Do a word search
  16. Turn on some music and dance
  17. Take a bath or shower
  18. Go for a scenic drive
  19. Go grab your favorite coffee
  20. Listen to a guided meditation
  21. Read a book
  22. Listen to your fave podcast
  23. Answer e-mails 
  24. Vacuum
  25. Write a to-do list
  26. Color in a coloring book
  27. Take some deep breaths
  28. Do a crossword puzzle
  29. Play games on your phone or iPad 
  30. Do a yoga video on YouTube
  31. Start some laundry
  32. Load your dishwasher
  33. Organize a closet 
  34. Take a nap
  35. Go to Target (personal fave)
  36. Research your next vacation
  37. Snuggle on the couch with your pet
  38. Write down your goals
  39. Straighten up your house
  40. Organize your bedroom
  41. Do some gardening
  42. Plan out your day
  43. Do some online shopping
  44. Watch your favorite Youtube channel
  45. Get your nighttime routine started

Still feel like eating after you’ve tried 15 minutes of something else? It’s okay! This may be one of those moments that a snack is just what you need. Don’t feel discouraged or like you did something wrong if your coping mechanism didn’t work. Just like anything else, working through emotional and boredom eating takes practice. You will have SO many opportunities to practice.

Someone sitting down at a table with a coffee, a journal and some candles lit and they are writing in their journal. An example of what to do instead of eating.

Other non-hunger eating triggers

You may find yourself boredom eating in certain situations, like while watching TV. Let’s cover what to do instead of eating in specific scenarios.

What can you do instead of eating while watching TV?

If you’re finding yourself constantly snacking while you’re watching your favorite shows, you want something that you can actively do while you’re watching. 

  1. Try making yourself a hot cup of flavored tea
  2. Use an adult coloring workbook
  3. Knit or crochet something

How to stop boredom eating at night

  1. Prevent any residual hunger from the day by prioritizing a balanced, satisfying dinner with plenty of protein, high fiber carbohydrates, and fat.
  2. Eat a balanced snack after dinner. Some of us just like to have an after-dinner snack, and that’s okay!
  3. Have a solid nighttime routine. If you’re going to bed too late, nighttime boredom eating is much more likely to happen. 

How to stop boredom eating at work

  1. Bring enough food with you. If you skimped on your meal packing or you didn’t pack balanced snacks, those Doritos in the vending machine are going to look that much more enticing when you’re bored. 
  2. Bring food you enjoy eating. Yes, choosing healthy foods is important. But, if you bring stuff to work that is way “too” healthy and not exciting to eat, you’re going to be searching for other foods. Bring foods that excite you, like the new grinder salad recipe that you just tried. 
  3. Make a hot tea or coffee instead. Sometimes we just need a little afternoon comforting pick-me-up. It doesn’t have to be food. 

What to do instead of emotional eating

If you feel like you’re eating purely because of emotions like sadness, stress, or worry, I recommend really diving into the root of what’s going on.

  1. Journal: What emotions specifically are making you want to eat? Are there certain things happening in your life that are contributing?
  2. Come up with a plan: If your emotional eating is happening because you’re super stressed out, what stress-relieving activities can you start prioritizing?
  3. Execute the plan: If you know that exercise lowers your stress levels, put a plan in place. Ex: I’m going to go for a 20 minute walk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 9am.  

The takeaways

It’s normal to sometimes eat when you’re not hungry. But, if you’re finding that it’s happening often, interfering with your goals, or just not making you feel great… I get it. Figuring out what you can do instead of eating is super important so that most of the time, you’re listening to your hunger and fullness appropriately.

Speaking of which, are you struggling to stop eating after you’re full? I’ve got the perfect next step for you here: Why do I keep eating after I’m full (and what to do about it)

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It's me, Jamie!

I’m a Registered Dietitian dedicated to helping you break free of the all-or-nothing dieting with balanced and realistic healthy eating.

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Meet Jamie

I’m a Registered Dietitian and I’ve been exactly where you are, right now. The all or nothing dieting, the constant food guilt, the scale obsession, absolutely no balance with food…. Sound familiar?