The first week in January brings with it many New Year’s resolutions, either hopefully received by those with shared goals or scoffed at by jaded recipients of one too many overly ambitious goals from New Years’ past. I fall into the former category. Each January, I reflect on the prior year – what went well, what was important, what fell behind – and pick an handful of goals with the aim of self-improvement. Along with millions of other people around the world, one of my New Year’s resolutions involves healthy eating.
I’ve always had a binge eating personality, especially when it comes to sweets. When I was a kid, I remember destroying this value pack of Fruit Roll Ups in about an hour; I must have had thirty of them in one sitting. In middle school, I spent the night at a friend’s house. He lived in an upscale neighborhood. When we sat down for dinner, there was water in all the glasses. I remember thinking, Wow. I guess rich people just drink water with everything, because I subsisted on Coke, sweet tea, and other sugary beverages. (Something I deeply regret after many cavities.) Needless to say, healthy snacking is a personal struggle for me.
Thinking back on my year, there have been several nights where I ended a D&D session feeling guilty about what or how much I ate. Even if the session was spectacular, I can’t help but ruminate on my overindulgence and how much it may have set me back. If you’ve felt this way after a TTRPG session, you might enjoy this short article with tips on health-conscious snacking during your favorite game.
My undergraduate degree was in Public Health, with a focus in Health Science. While I am familiar with the science of nutrition and have acted as a personal trainer in the past, I am not a medical professional. I simply have a passion for empowering others to take charge of their health. As always, talk with your doctor if you have concerns about implementing changes in your diet.
While my advice in this post is targeted towards those who want to build healthy snacking habits during their favorite TTRPG, these are just general suggestions. You may take some, none, or all of the suggestions below. You could even expand upon or modify them.
I don’t like the word diet, as it has become synonymous with a temporary change in food intake to achieve some goal, only to return to normal eating habits once complete. Whether it’s Keto, Whole 30, Atkins, or Paleo, few participants see lasting benefits once these regiments are abandoned. Furthermore, some of these diets are tricky to attain proper nutrition while adhering to them. I’ve seen my share of folks partaking in Keto, for example, doing things I would not associate as “healthy,” like eating multiple burger patties along with several high-cholesterol eggs.
True health comes with lasting lifestyle change, not the latest fad diet. Thus, my goal is to develop good, sustainable habits without setting unrealistic expectations.
Tips for Healthy Snacking
Before you begin, you may consider informing the rest of the folks at your gaming table that you’re trying to snack healthier. Just like working out, it’s easier to stick with eating healthy if you’ve got a partner. Even if they don’t want to join your quest, you can ask that they support you or, at the very least, respect your efforts by not teasing or offering you junk food.
One simple way to curb binge eating during your TTRPG session is to enjoy your snacks in moderation. It will take time to adjust to eating less of the things you enjoy, but you won’t regret it down the line.
- Serving Sizes. When eating snacks, pay attention to the serving sizes on the back of the package. You’d be surprised how deceptive some of them are!
- Buy Less. Not only will it save you money, but buying less snacks will force you to snack less. Once you’re out, you’re out! Make sure you set your self up for success at the grocery store; don’t go shopping hungry.
- Track Calories. I use an app called Lose It to track my intake throughout the day. While counting calories doesn’t necessarily equate to perfect health, it’s a good way to gauge how much food remains in your daily “bank” without going overboard.
Substitutions & Alternatives
Of course, avoiding junk food all together will net you better results. However, it can be incredibly difficult to not eat anything during your game. Instead, I recommend substituting common junk foods with some nutritious alternatives.
If you’re going to kick anything, it should probably be soda. Sparkling water, zero-calorie fruit sweeteners for water, tea, or coffee can satisfy that flavor craving without all of the negative outcomes associated with soda.
I love sour gummies. All gummies, in fact. Though after eating a bag at D&D, I feel sick to my stomach. You know what doesn’t make me feel sick to my stomach? Nuts. Pistachios, almonds, cashews, even lightly salted peanuts.
There are many great alternatives to a bag of potato chips these days. Consider oven-roasted sweet potato fries, rice chips, veggie sticks, baked vegetable chips (I like Terra), or kale chips.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good donut. In fact, I could outright destroy a dozen of just about any variety. Same goes for danishes, strudels, and basically anything with icing. Consider having thin wafers with coffee. There are also some great protein bars as well that can function as a healthy “dessert,” such as those by Power Crunch or Quest. If you’re looking for something a bit sweeter, Lara Bars are a nice treat. I love dates. The How Not to Die Cookbook (one of my favorites) uses dates to sweeten up many foods, including goji berry superfood breakfast bites.
When In Doubt, Veggie Trays!
Vegetable trays can substitute most foods. Combined with salsa, hummus, or even a spinach dip, these can be a delicious, guilt-free alternative. For the actual veggies, I recommend slicing bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and carrots. Olives and cherry tomatoes make great additions as well. You can substitute just about anything at the table with a veggie tray, and you don’t have to break the bank when you make your own – so long as you have a few minutes to slice some cucumbers.
Fruit trays are also a nice snack. They may be higher in sugar than their vegetable cousins, but natural sugars are often accompanied by other nutrients.
A group meal can be a great way to get healthy as a group. Eating a cooked meal is a surefire way to know exactly what you’re putting in your body, and you can tailor it to include healthy options. Typically, our D&D group meets up 30-45 minutes prior to session for a group meal about once a month. Sometimes its a casserole, other times it’s some hot dogs from Sam’s Club with some cooked vegetables. Occasionally, we bring D&D-themed foods when there’s something relevant or an epic in-game moment coming up.
We talk in the group me prior to the meal about who is bringing what. Responsibility of the main course rotates from person to person, but we always make a point to have some sort of vegetable or salad present. Nowadays, grocery stores have tasty salad kits that only require a couple minutes of prep. Typically, you can find some on a deal if they’re close to the sell by date.
You Can Do It!
Eating healthy is no small endeavor. Millions of people struggle with it each and every day, myself included. Know that every now and then, it’s okay to take a cheat day. And if you fall off the horse completely, don’t worry; we’ve all been there. Cast find steed, mount up, and you’ll be back on the road to a healthy lifestyle in no time.
Did this article help you? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as my milk-themed carnival adventure, Step Right Up, Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts, or Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.