Health & Food

Strategies for Preventing Mindless Eating

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Back in 2010 (haha, weird!), I wrote a post about how our environment is completely against us in terms of helping us stay at a healthy weight. Think about how easy it is to get food these days. You can go to Lowe’s or Target and get a meal, which in my opinion is absurd. We no longer have to work for our food, and the food we do have to work for tends to be more expensive. Our environment is simply not on our side. But, can we do something about our environment? Yes, we can!

The December issue of Today’s Dietitian had a great article about avoiding the trap of mindless eating. Much of the information in the article was from a book by Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. There are many definitions of “Mindless Eating” but to me it relates to the times when we eat something without even thinking about it. Most of the time we are eating these foods or drinks even when we aren’t at all hungry, and possibly even when we’re full. This mindless eating can possibly account for hundreds of calories in our diet, which is why I typically add between 100-500 calories to any 24-hour recall given to me by my clients.

**The following information and tips are brought to you by Todays Dietitian Magazine**

  • Today the average person makes nearly 250 food decisions each day. Holy cow! Most of these decisions happen without, well, without thinking! I mean, you think, but you just don’t notice that you are thinking, do you know what I mean?
  • Research shows that people eat an average of 2.2 more candies each day when they are visible, compared to when they are not. Solution? Don’t leave candy out on your desk, dining room table, or anywhere near them!

If you want to leave something out on a table, make it healthy. Even the chocolate almonds in the picture above would be better than the chocolate kisses. If you don’t think 2.2 extra pieces of candy is a lot, you should do the math (2.2 x ~50 calories = ~100 extra calories per day, times 365 days = 36,500 extra calories a year, which is 10 pounds…….)

  • Be careful when you purchase 100-calorie packs.While the idea may be a good one (portion control) they tend to backfire for about 30% of the population, according to research. The idea of portioning out your food is a great way to make a healthier environment, but you’re still going to be better off eating 100 calories of a fruit, vegetable, or low fat dairy product than you will eating a 100-calorie pack of cookies. Also, it’s cheaper just to do the portioning yourself!
  • Have you ever noticed that the foods with the most marketing tend to be the ones that the worst for us? If you have the ability to do so, fast forward through your commercials, or just leave the room when they are on.
  • Believe it or not, food is cheaper these days, and according to the article it only takes up about 6% of our income(well, this is an average). I think a lot of us get caught in the traps at stores where we see a “good deal” and then we must buy it, even if we hadn’t planned on doing so. This should be called “mindless shopping”! Remind yourself that unhealthy food is typically cheap food, so stay away, unless you really must have it….

These Reece’s Trees were dirt cheap after the holidays. I almost bought a huge bag of them but then I reminded myself we did not need them around the house! Not to mention the fact that we still had leftover cookies and chocolate from Christmas, so why would I buy them?!

  • A great way to change your environment is to buy smaller plates, utensils, and glasses. One study found that people served themselves 31% more ice cream when they were provided with a larger ice cream bowl, and 14.5% more when they were provided with a larger scoop! I think if you want to start anywhere, start with this environmental change!

Question: What are some of the environmental changes you have made to prevent “mindless eating”?

Keep in mind these tips aren’t just for weight loss. Everyone mindlessly eats and even those who are at a healthy weight should learn some ways to prevent mindless eating. It’s not just about weight management, it’s also about health and wellness.

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