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Banish mindless eating

A snack here, a bite there, a little bit of leftover food the kids didn’t eat… It may be only small bits of food every now and then, but over time these add up! Also called mindless eating, these small amounts can easily contribute to weight gain or difficulty losing weight in the long run. We take a look at how you can kick this habit.

How much makes a difference?

Dr Brian Wansink, the Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab has researched the way people eat and why, compiling his findings in a book called Mindless Eating. The extra calories you take in through mindless eating can be as little as 100-300 per day. What this looks like is a small pottle of yoghurt, a couple of extra pieces of fruit, a chocolate bar, a glass of wine or that piece of cake. It seems to be not that much in the grand scheme of your day’s eating, but over one year that can add up to 36,500 calories or more!

The difference between maintaining your body weight or adding on an extra 5kgs over a year could be from just eating a small handful of lollies per day in addition to your ‘normal’ food.

Another interesting fact is that on average, people within a normal weight range have a tendency to think they’ve eaten 20% less than they really have. And as part of a study, obese people underestimated how much food they had eaten by up to 30-40%. This is a real reason to take a good look at what you’re eating and check whether your idea of a serving size matches up with what a true serving portion should be.

Argh help! How do I stop it!?

Here are some handy tips to help curb the mindless eating:

  • Eat at the table whenever possible. Television, sports games, work and computers can all distract us from just how much we’re really eating.
  • Don’t eat leftover food from your kids’ plates. It may feel like a waste of food, but do you have the extra time to work it off at the gym?
  • Don’t store treats and snacks in plain sight. Get them off your work desk and kitchen benchtop.
  • Just because a product is low in fat doesn’t mean you can eat more of it! Start checking the portion sizes on food labels and stick to them.
  • Serve yourself one plate for your meal (piling it up high doesn’t count!), and don’t go back for seconds. This includes making sure you dish up first rather than leaving food in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves; studies have shown you could eat up to 100% more if you have it in front of you while you eat.
  • Don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry; extra snacks, treats and that tempting display of confectionary by the checkouts will seem a lot more appealing and be more difficult to resist.
  • Take yourself a full lunchbox to work/school/uni and only eat from this during your time away from home. You have more control over what you’re eating and you know the portion sizes will be around the right size. How often do you just go out to buy lunch and come back with a drink or chocolate bar as well?

Photo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Ambro

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