Tuesday Ten: Put an End to Mindless Eating

Hey y’all! I’m back with another Tuesday Ten post. I enjoy writing these posts and think it’s a great way to pack a ton of really great information in without a lot of fluff. I know we all live busy lives and I want to make sure that I am providing you with what you need to hear!

This past week, I attended the Utah Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conference where I was able to network with other Registered Dietitians (and RDs to be!)  and learn about emerging research in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Although it wasn’t new information, my favorite part of the conference was a talk on mindless eating and how our outrageous portion sizes are somewhat to blame for the obesity epidemic. The talk was based on a book written by Brian Wansink called Mindless EatingThis book is now on my must-reads list and can’t wait to start it!

A Little Boy Eating an Apple

I love the thought that our health truly comes down to eating the correct portions and working to include a variety of nutrient dense foods. What we eat does matter, but overeating can still happen with “health” foods. Our brain has a funny way of working and small changes like using a tall glass or keeping candy hidden in the cupboard can actually work in our favor and encourage us to eat the right amount of food for our bodies without even thinking about it.

10 Tips to Eat Less Without Noticing

1.Learn the Correct Portion Size

With today’s “super-sized” portions, it’s extremely easy to forget what a correct serving actually looks like. We tend to view a serving as whatever we have served ourselves…even if it is really four servings!

Our perceptions of a serving are hardly accurate, which can easily lead to overeating. Just for fun, try measuring out your morning cereal tomorrow morning. Grab a measuring cup and read the nutrition facts label on the cereal box to determine what one serving of your cereal is. A typical serving of cereal is 3/4 cup or 1 cup. It really doesn’t look like much when you actually measure it out! Most mornings, we probably serve ourselves at least two servings of cereal.

It can be eye-opening to spend a few days looking at nutrition facts labels, determining what one serving is, and actually measuring that serving using measuring spoons and cups. While I don’t think that everybody needs to do this, it can be really helpful if you are struggling with eating the correct portion of foods. After learning what a single serving looks like, put away the measuring utensils and just eye-ball it!

2. Use Smaller Containers, Cups, and Plates

Our dinner plates have grown larger over the years…along with our waistlines. The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter whether the dinner plate is 12 inches or 8 inches, we still fill our plates with food and feel satisfied when we have cleared our plate. It makes sense that if we use a smaller plate, we will serve ourselves less food and feel satisfied when we have eaten that amount.

This same principle applies to bowls, containers, and glasses. Brian Wansink and James Painter conducted an “all-you-can-eat” ice cream social experiment in which one group was given larger bowls, spoons, and ice cream scoop while another group was given smaller bowls, spoons, and ice cream scoop. After eating what they wanted, both groups agreed that they had eaten plenty of ice cream. Guess which group ate more? The group with larger bowls ate double the amount of ice cream, but both groups felt satisfied with the amount they were given.

3.Pre-portion Bulk Food Items

This was a lesson that I learned during my freshman year of college. I stocked up on all of my favorite foods at Sam’s Club one day and bought the extra large bags of wheat thins, trail mix, and almonds. I seemed to go through these bags at an alarmingly fast rate and wondered why I went through them so quickly. I realized that when I was just reaching into the bags and eating handfuls of these foods, I was easily eating more than one serving at a time.

Now, when I buy items in bulk, I immediately portion them into snack-sized bags when I get home. By doing this, I know that I am eating the correct portion of these foods at one time and am not mindlessly munching my way through the bag.

4.Start with Soup or Salad

Begin your meal with a veggie packed dish like soup or salad. This ensures that you are filling up on nutrient dense foods first rather than eating a few bites at the end. Soups and salads are also filling and can slow down your meal a bit so that you get those feelings of fullness (remember it can take 20 minutes to feel full).

Keep things simple by sticking with a broth-based soup rather than a creamy soup and keep high calorie salad toppings like croutons, cheese, and creamy dressings to a minimum.

5. Create a Balanced Meal

Eating a balanced meal that contains all three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) helps signal fullness and keeps hunger at bay in between meals. Think about this when building each meal. It is easy to tell when you have left out fat or protein!

Here are some of my favorite balanced meals:

Breakfast Parfait: Greek yogurt(protein), diced apple (carbohydrate), and chopped walnuts (fat)

Quinoa Bowl: grilled chicken (protein), quinoa and stir fry veggies (carbohydrate), and avocado (fat)

Taco Tuesday: shredded beef (protein), whole-wheat or corn tortillas (carbohydrate), shredded cheese (fat)

Snack Plate: string cheese (protein), grapes (carbohydrate), and cocoa-dusted almonds (fat)

6. Keep Nutritious Foods Front and Center. 

Out of sight. Out of mind! We tend to eat with our eyes are are going to grab foods that are easily available. Make it easy to pick healthy options by keeping them front and center. Keep washed and chopped veggies on the top shelf of the fridge, place a bowl of fruit on the counter for a “fast food” snack, and make a snack bin with pre-portioned nuts, trail mix, and whole-grain crackers in the cupboard or pantry. While we want to keep healthy foods front and center, we also want to keep our less healthy foods tucked away.

When my husband and I first got married, he would keep all of his favorite foods (sugary cereal and Teddy Grahams) on the top of the fridge. I though it looked so ugly, so I would put them back in the cupboard where they belonged. He told me once that when I put “junk foods” back in the cupboard, he forgets they are there and eats other (more healthy) things. I thought this was funny and told him that it’s probably not a bad idea to eat more of those healthy things and continued keeping the less healthy stuff out of sight.

7. Check in With Yourself

It is very common to mistake hunger for thirst. We can easily find ourselves trying to quench our thirst with food, which can lead to overeating. Rather than immediately reaching for a snack, try drinking a glass of water and see if you are really hungry.

Getting in touch with your hunger cues is a great idea for each of us. We reach for food in a variety of situations and times that we are not truly hungry. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are wanting to eat. Are you truly hungry? Go grab a snack. Are you eating because you are bored, tired, stressed? It might be better to take a nap, relaxing bath, or walk outside instead of reaching for a snack.

8. Don’t Eat From the Package

Have you ever sat down to watch TV with a bag of chips and said you were only going to eat a few? It doesn’t work, does it? When the food is right in front of us, it can be extremely hard and takes a lot of willpower to just stop eating. Rather than getting yourself in this situation, place some chips in a bowl and put the bag of chips back in the cupboard. Enjoy your TV show without mindlessly eating the entire bag of chips.

9. Serve Food Buffet Style

This tip goes with number 8. We eat more when we serve our food family style. The bowls of food are right in front of us, making it easy to dish up seconds and thirds. Keep the food in the kitchen rather than on the table. Dish up and then sit down and enjoy your meal. If you want seconds, you have to think and actually get up to get them. This turns off the auto-pilot nature of serving food family style.

10. Package Leftovers Right Away

I am guilty of picking at leftovers while I put them up after a meal. This might seem like an innocent habit, but can easily lead to overeating if not careful. To combat the mindless eating after a meal, I package up any leftovers immediately after serving dinner (it doesn’t take long!). I can still have seconds, but it is not just mindless eating.

What mindless eating tips do you have?

Are there any tips on the list that you would use?

Live Happy. Live Healthy.





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