If I Can’t Stop the Munchies, What Can I Eat To Stay Healthy?

Stoned snacking, especially late at night, can prove detrimental over time. For example, when I was in my early 20s, I could take down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a plate of buffalo chicken well into the early morning hours without feeling it in the morning. Today, when I do those things, I’m in the bathroom for the better part of the morning. Or, even worse, I’m more backed up than the Manhattan bound F train during morning rush hour. In either case, it ain’t pretty.

The long-term effects can be much worse. Unhealthy eating can lead to an array of adverse conditions, including diabetes. Daily side effects include the aforementioned digestion issues and slowed metabolism.

From gross to potentially life threatening concerns, it’s high time you revise your munchie options. But since I’m a 36-year-old that still snacks like a child, I asked people with more control over themselves about their healthy munchie approach.

Science Behind the Munchies

Before diving into healthy snacking, let’s unpack what causes the munchies. Most know from experience that THC increases appetites. You may also know that THC binds to your body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors found throughout the brain and body. Increased hunger sensations are common during this effect. The past decade has helped us begin to better understand this reaction more.

Somebody call the band Boston, because those hunger pangs may be more than a feeling. A 2014 mice study found that when influenced by THC, the brain’s olfactory bulb experiences an increased ability to smell food, leading to more eating. Researchers felt a similar effect occurs in humans who consume THC.

We’ve continued to learn about cannabinoids’ influence on the brain. Additional research has shown that when cannabinoids are injected into the brain, its POMC (pro-opiomelanocortin) neurons nerve cells saw increased activity in cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R). What’s interesting is that these cells typically produce feelings of fullness. But, as researchers noted, when triggered by cannabinoids, the cells fooled the brain’s central feeding system into thinking that it’s hungry.

Select research has suggested that humans are hardwired to crave high-calorie food. This desire is possibly connected to early human’s lack of food security. And while some may fear packing on pounds with late night snacks, that might not be the case. There is a belief that after munchie bouts, most people won’t eat again for a prolonged period.

We’re far from finished on researching the brain-hunger-cannabis connection. Expect more research to come in the near future.

Healthy Snacking Options

How can we satisfy the hunger feelings without putting ourselves at a higher health risk?

Consumers and health experts provided High Times with dozens of healthy options and approaches. On the snacking front, most seem to agree that a combination of fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy is the way to go. These were some of the most commonly mentioned snacks according to respondents:

  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cheese sticks
  • Fruit, nuts and dark chocolate plates
  • Fuji apples with peanut butter
  • Granola
  • Greek yogurt
  • Peanut butter
  • Popcorn
  • Red peppers
  • Smoothies

Your options may change depending on preferences or medical conditions. Mary Pryorbases her entire diet around managing Crohn’s disease. Diagnosed in 2013, the condition compelled her to “make the strongest pivot I could do,” for her health. She dropped staples like soy, dairy, gluten, wheat, and certain fruits and vegetables as part of her change. She also turned to medical cannabis after a ten-year layoff. “If you’re smoking weed, munchies are a thing,” Pryor said. She switched her snacking accordingly. Mangoes became a go-to.

“Mangoes are known for enhancing your high,” said Pryor. She credits the terpene myrcene for increasing the effectiveness of the cannabis while producing pleasurable aromas and flavors.

All-fruit options became the norm as anything artificial went into the bin. She now uses a healthy subscription service to curate monthly snacks.

Keys To Successful Satisfying Snacking

With our brains pushing for food, it’s likely best we lean in. The key is to do so with the right foods. But sometimes, we want those snacks with empty calories, sugar or grease. Thankfully, there are several approaches to consider.

Healthy Sweet Alternatives

Samantha Ward, a fitness assistant and trainer at the European American Supplement Sciences Organization (EURASC), supports a munchie menu of fruits, veg, nuts and seeds. When someone is struggling with a sweet tooth, she recommends healthy snacks like honey and fruits. She added that people with sugar addictions may want to use Stevia or another substitute instead.

Ward and many others recommend drinking plenty of water and eating foods rich in protein and fiber.

“Protein and fiber can help to keep you feeling full, which can help to curb cravings,” said Ward.

Or try drinking some water. Zack Squier, a cannabis chef and the founder of Squier’s Specialty Edibles, likes sparkling waters to feel full. He said he likes to experiment with his beverages “adding a few muddled berries or sangria-style fruit chunks to sip on with my drink.”

Fill Your Plate

In this case, we’re talking less about physically filling your plate and more about eating something that checks all the boxes. When snacking or having a meal, make sure it fills you up.

Jamie Nadeau, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, suggests having a variety of healthy snacks. But when you want chips or any less than ideal option, combine them with something more beneficial.

“If you pair those chips with something with protein like a cheese stick or a Greek yogurt, you’ll find that you’ll end up eating less because you’ll be fuller, quicker,” Nadeau said.

Fitness coach Mitch Webb offered a similar take, prioritizing protein. Compared to sugar and fat, Webb said protein is the most satiating macronutrient.

He added that protein, “Makes you feel fuller with less food because it suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin while boosting leptin, the hormone that tells your body it’s satiated.”

Webb said consumers can find protein in a variety of healthy options, including various meats, eggs, protein powders, nuts and seeds.

Avoid Unhealthy Snacks Altogether

If you’re like me and can’t put down the Doritos, ice cream, soda or what have you, you may need to go cold turkey. If so, you’ll need to work on self control at home. More importantly, you’ll want to do so when buying food in stores, at restaurants or using apps like GrubHub, Instacart, etc.

“I exert all my self control at the store,” said cannabis consumer Jerry Tindall. Like many, he claimed to have “zero self control once junk food makes it home.”

You’ll have to trial and error your way into finding self-control at the stores. You may just be able to will yourself. Or, thanks to inflation, you may just never be able to afford anything again soon.

Carly Fisher, a cannabis consumer, author and James Beard-nominated journalist, supports having only healthy food at home to avoid temptation. Those handy in the kitchen may want to follow Fisher’s approach with some healthy prepared meals of your own.

“I love the air fryer and instant pot because it cuts down on cooking time to make dishes that you might be too impatient to make when you’re in a haze,” said Fisher.

Today, it’s easy enough to find healthy recipes on popular blogs and social media accounts. Pick which items please your palate and start meal prepping. Or if you’re a stoner with greasy hair and questionable tattoos like me, get stoned and then cook. You’ll feel like The Bear in no time.

Snack Stoned Wisely

Enjoy yourself how you see fit. But be aware of the toll you may be putting on your body. The weed-alcohol comparison is played out and often overreaching. But in this case, the effects of bad late night eating can be similar to a hangover.

When you’re young, you can pound back whatever you want and barely blink the next morning. But over time, your body ages. All that junk you’ve been putting in there wears and tears the system down. Now, at 30, 40, 50-plus, those same unhealthy options are likely to bite you in the behind—and stomach, chest, legs and various other parts of your body.

Reduce the chances of excessive wear and tear tomorrow by choosing healthy options today.