I had the same problem, except my go-to was hard candy! The more challenging or exciting the project, the more candy I crunched. Can you say tooth decay, boys and girls? Not to mention the issues that come with ingesting all that sugar!
Try mouth exercises! They are no cost, no calorie, easy on your teeth, and may help strengthen some of your many facial muscles!
This works best, of course, if you spending this time at your PC at home ... or if at work, hopefully it is within the privacy of your cubicled walls or office.
- Silently stretch your entire mouth to form the vowels (A, E I, O, U) in succession. Be sure to exaggerate your silent pronunciation to engage your entire mouth and to stretch as much of your face as possible. When you get to the letter "U", your lips should be pursed to their farthest extension and your chin should be jutted as far forward as it will stretch.
- Opening your mouth as long and as wide as you can, as you would for a dentist visit, and silently mouth the word "La" over and over using only your tongue. You must keep your mouth opened as wide as you can and remember only your tongue can be used to form the word "La, la, la, la, la ...".
Perform each exercise for 1-3 minutes at a stretch. You will find with engaging all of these mouth, lip, and face muscles you have managed to fulfill the need be "orally engaged" without adding calories or tooth decay!
Hope this is helpful!