While we know that snacking can lead to eating hundreds of extra calories per day, mealtime can also cause increased calorie consumption if we are not eating mindfully. Mindful eating focuses on awareness of what we are eating, how much, and why. Consider these two strategies to prevent overeating at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
1) Eat without distractions: This tip is most important. When we eat, eating is often only one of the things we are doing when consuming food. We usually eat while watching TV, reading the news, talking on the phone- and some of us manage to eat while driving, walking, or working. When we do this, we are not focused on what we are eating or how much. Because we are not focused on our food, our minds don’t register how satisfied we are. It’s not just about feeling full, but also about flavors- did our minds register the richness of the sweet potatoes to satisfy our sweet tooths? Did our minds process the crisp veggies so we’re not inclined to snack again after we eat? When we are distracted, our minds don’t realize that we are giving our bodies what it’s craving, and we often seek to over-satisfy ourselves after meals because we missed the first experience with eating.
2) Plate your food and pack up leftovers before you start eating. This simple strategy will help to prevent you from going for seconds, and thirds. Instead of putting bowls of food on the table for your family to serve itself, put the food on the plates and bring them to the table (preferably the dining room- if you have one- rather than the kitchen). Keeping bowls full of food on the table often leads to adding more food to your plate after you have finished your meal. Try portioning food on plates first then immediately pack up leftovers to serve at a later meal. Since our bodies often require 20-30 minutes to register “fullness,” we tend to over-serve ourselves when food is in front of us.
Incorporating simple tips into your daily routine can add up to thousands of extra calories not consumed- supporting weight management and decreased risk of disease.