Did you know that little calories you eat here and there, without even thinking about it, could be adding up on your waist-line? Did you also know that it is not just hunger or even emotions that drive us down the path to overeating? Our surroundings can actually encourage us to eat more. In his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think, Brian Wansink, Ph.D. points out that the average person makes over 200 food-related decisions every day. What drives those decisions is not always easy to explain.  Why do we choose to eat what we do? What controls the amount we eat?

            Dr. Wansink is the Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab.  He and his team have done extensive research to find out what influences people to eat the way that they do. What his research has uncovered could help you eat less, eat healthier and maybe even enjoy your food more. On the other hand, without paying attention, you may be at the mercy of your environment when it comes to food choices. Did you know the size of the plate, characteristics of the food packaging, and even the smells, colors and lighting in the dining room influence what and how much we eat?  Food companies, restaurants and marketers utilize these principles every day to boost their business, whether they are promoting healthy foods or not. Therefore, it makes sense to be an informed consumer if we want to make healthier choices. For more information, check out:  www.foodpsychology.cornell.edu .


            In the meantime, try these tips to help you take better control of your food choices and the amount you eat…

1.      Start with smaller plates. Use a 7-9” plate rather than a 10-12”. The smaller the plate, the less food it will take to make the plate look full.  When the plate looks full, we tend to think we have more to eat and feel more satisfied even if there is less food.

2.      Don’t go back for seconds and don’t be a member of the CYPC (Clean Your Plate Club). Leaving a small amount on the plate at each meal can save you lots of calories over time. This can lead to gradual, yet significant, weight loss

3.     Fill ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Items like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, greens, mushrooms, onions and peppers are low in calories but help you feel full. They are also a great source of vitamins and minerals.

4.      Pace yourself. Try putting the fork down between bites. Take time to actually taste and savor each bite

5.      When snacking, portion out what you are eating and stop with one serving. Don’t sit down in front of the TV with an entire package. Eat items like nuts, trail-mix or popcorn one piece at a time rather than by the handfuls.

Remember the best way to avoid “mindless eating” is to pay attention and be aware of what you are doing. Take the time to be a “mindful” eater. You might be surprised to find what a weapon the mind can be in the battle against the bulge.