It depends. First off, chewing gum can be very helpful when used as a behavioral tool, says Susan Bowerman, R.D., director of worldwide nutrition, education, and training at Herbalife.
For example, if you’re a stress eater, reaching for gum instead of pretzels when you’re on deadline can calm your nerves without the extra calories. Bowerman says that the simple act of chewing is calming for some people. (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
Similarly, if you crave something sweet after finishing a meal, popping gum rather than spooning dessert can cut your calorie count. Plus, she says, the post-meal gum will start to act as a “signal” over time that you don’t need to eat anymore.
But while the idea of swapping a snack or dessert for a piece of sugar-free gum sounds easy enough, artificially sweetened gum might actually lead to consuming more calories later in the day, says Lisa DeFazio, R.D. The artificial sweeteners in the gum, such as aspartame, taste sweet to your taste buds, so your body starts preparing for an intake of carbohydrates and calories. But because the gum has no calories, nothing ends up going into your stomach and you’re left craving sugar, she says. On the other hand, chewing gum with actual sugar and more calories raises your blood sugar a bit and might lead to less cravings later, DeFazio says. But chewing on a block of Bubblicious Bubble Gum with roughly six grams of sugar per serving is not a great idea for your waistline (or your teeth), so chew at your own risk.
Another con: Chewing artificially-sweetened gum can upset your gastrointestinal track, leading to bloating, gas, and diarrhea. While these symptoms don’t directly affect weight loss, they can definitely make it harder to reach your goal weight by making you feel uncomfortable and sick.
So before choosing gum the next time you’re faced with a midday snacking dilemma, ask yourself whether you’re actually hungry, just bored, or stressed.
If you’re hungry, then you shouldn’t turn to gum. Instead, DeFazio recommends reaching for a balanced snack, such as an apple and peanut butter or carrots and hummus. Both of these combinations include ample protein and fiber to keep you full and are crunchy to satisfy that need to chew.
If you’re bored or stressed, well, it looks like the choice is yours. Bowerman says chewing gum can help calm your nerves and keep you from stress-eating extra cals. But if you find that sugar-free gum leaves you wanting more sugar or upsets your stomach, try drinking seltzer with a splash of juice to satisfy your sweet tooth instead, says Defazio. When you’re tempted to stress eat, take a break by going for a walk or closing your eyes for a moment and listening to music.