7 Simple Ways to Avoid Mindless EatingBy Stephanie Eng-Aponte Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
It’s been a long day. Finally, it’s 6 o’clock, and you’re ready to unwind. You sink into the couch with your favorite snack in-hand to give you a quick energy burst before making dinner, and turn on your favorite show. Before the episode is over, the bag is empty – but you can’t remember finishing it. Sound like a familiar scenario?
It’s easy to eat mindlessly when there are so many distractions around us. Without even realizing it, you may overeat and make unhealthy food choices — which can lead to weight gain. But there’s good news: there are simple ways you can be more mindful – starting today.
Check out these seven easy ways to go from mindless eating to mindful eating!
1. Enjoy a balanced, protein-rich breakfast.
We get it: mornings can be busy. But by making time for a morning meal, one study found that you may be less likely to snack on unhealthy foods (like soda or processed treats) later in the evening.1 A breakfast that includes healthy sources of protein may help you to feel fuller and satiated longer.2
Try this: Start your day right with a savory egg, cheese and turkey sausage burrito, a small handful of berries and a 6-ounce nonfat yogurt.
2. Keep portion sizes in mind.
Portions and serving sizes can be very different. A portion is what you decide to eat, whereas a serving size is what’s listed on a food label.3 Portion sizes can be deceiving, so try to keep the recommended serving size in mind (especially if you’re at a restaurant).
Research also indicates it can be easier to overeat when the portion size is larger. In one study, participants were given a sandwich that was either 6, 8, 10 or 12 inches long. Those who received a 12-inch sandwich were likely to eat more and didn’t report feeling significantly fuller afterward, compared to those who’d eaten smaller sandwiches. This suggests eating more won’t necessarily leave you feeling full.4
Try this: Avoid snacking straight out of the bag and try to keep your portion sizes in mind by sticking to this portion-friendly infographic.
3. Find the right mindset.
Set yourself up for success by practicing a few mindful eating techniques. Not only is mindful eating linked to weight loss – but it might help you enjoy your next meal even more. Being present and paying attention to the sight, taste and aroma of your food will help you to appreciate your meal and savor every bite.
Try this: Disconnecting from your devices and leaving extra portions in the kitchen – are two ways you can begin to eat more mindfully. Check out these other tips in this infographic.
4. Steer clear of “procrastin-eating.”
Ever avoid a deadline by grabbing something to snack on instead? Procrastinating by snacking, or “procrastin-eating,” provides a distraction, instead of allowing you to focus on the task at hand.5 And you’re not the only one – researchers found one in five people are chronic procrastinators, meaning they consistently procrastinate in their personal, social and work lives.6
5. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Making healthy foods easier to access may make you more likely to reach for them … but the same goes for unhealthy treats.
Google got to the bottom of its employees’ snack habits by observing 2,000 workers from the New York office. Bulk M&M candies were hidden in opaque containers, while healthier snacks, like nuts and dried fruit, were placed in glass jars. After this change, researchers found employees ate 3.1 million fewer calories – from M&Ms alone – over a seven-week period. To put that number of calories in perspective, each of the office’s 2,000 workers would have eaten nine regular-sized packages of candies.7
Try this: Prep your healthy snacks for the week and keep them within reach, like the front of your pantry and fridge, or out on your desk. Apples, a bag of carrots and celery or a small palmful of nuts are all great options.
6. Take time to rest and digest.
You should give yourself at least 20 minutes for fullness to set in, explains HuffPost.8 Here’s why: As you chew, swallow and begin to digest your food, it can take anywhere between five and 20 minutes for the glucose from your food to be absorbed by your body. As a result, your insulin will increase and hormones in your gut will be released. All these signals travel back to the brain to signal fullness.8 The amount of time it takes to feel full can vary from person to person, so it’s important to give your brain time to catch up with your body.
It can also be easy to mistake dehydration for hunger. The symptoms can be similar – fatigue, lightheadedness, or headaches.9 Keeping a reusable water bottle on hand and sipping it throughout the day can help you stay hydrated and may even help you avoid mindless eating.
Try this: Listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating is a great way to pay attention to your meal and avoid eating past the point of feeling satiated.
7. Avoid distractions.
Scrolling through your social media feed while eating, taking lunch at your desk, or snacking while watching TV might seem harmless, but being distracted while you’re eating may lead to weight gain. In fact, a review of three studies conducted by the University of Birmingham suggested that being inattentive or distracted during a meal resulted in people eating more at that meal, conversely, paying more attention to a meal was linked to eating less later.10 Researchers think the memory of eating impacts how long you’ll feel satisfied after your initial meal.10
Try this: Unplug at mealtimes to take the time to enjoy your meal and company.
To avoid mindless eating, remember to focus on your meal. Take a moment to appreciate the vibrant colors on your plate, the delicious aroma and flavor, and the textures of the ingredients. Take a seat at the table instead of in front of the TV, or walk away from your desk and enjoy lunch with your coworkers. All of these ideas are great ways to start building healthier, more mindful eating habits.
Delicious, nutritious meals, personalized consultations and learning to develop a healthier lifestyle are at the core of Jenny Craig’s programs. To learn more about how you can incorporate mindful eating with a proven weight loss program, contact us to book a free appointment today!
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. They employ an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoy the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)