Picture yourself out for dinner with a good friend. You order grilled salmon with steamed vegetables, an excellent, healthy selection. Your friend orders chicken nuggets and fries, but cannot finish all of the fries. As you are chatting, you help her finish them. Alternatively, you are at home, preparing dinner and taste the foods you are cooking. Finally, what about when you’ve made a sandwich for your young child, but he only eats half. What a waste it would be to throw out the rest so instead you pick on it and eventually finish it.
Do all these little “tastes” here and there really make a difference? Can these tiny bites really interfere with your weight loss? The answer is yes! Mindless snacking throughout the day can add up to quite a few extra calories. But, how can you gain control?
The following are some tips to help control mindless snacking:
- Most importantly, be aware of what you are eating and why you are eating. Were you really hungry for those French fries or were you nibbling because they were there? Did you really notice that you were tasting foods that you were preparing or was it just a mindless habit? When you are conscious and mindful, you will notice when you are eating for comfort or out of boredom rather than eating to satisfy hunger. If you find that you are having difficulty controlling your snacking, keep a food journal. Write down everything you put into your mouth as well as how you feel at the time. This will help you keep track of not only what you eat, but also why.
- Don’t skip meals. This includes breakfast. Many people feel that they are not hungry in the morning so why eat? A healthy breakfast will help stabilize your blood sugars allowing you to make better food choices throughout the day.
- Keep unhealthy foods out of the house. Create a shopping list and stick to it. This will help you avoid walking down the snack aisle and being tempted by something you don’t need.
- Drink water. Most people confuse thirst with hunger and will snack when their bodies are really telling them to drink. Before you give in to a snack, drink a cup of water. After 5 minutes, figure out if you actually are hungry or not.
- Keep busy. Most of us eat when we’re bored. The busier you are, the less time you’ll have to think about food. Activities that keep you busy will surely keep your mind off of food.
- Get away from the television. Watching too much will often lead to mindless eating. You may go through a sleeve of cookies without even realizing it. Getting up and going for a walk would be a great alternative. If you need to relax, try a warm bath or read a book or magazine.
- Brush your teeth or use whitening strips. Brush immediately after dinner and foods just won’t taste right and this will prevent late night snacking.
- If you do not like to waste leftovers, wrap it up and either give it away or store it for a later time. It’s always a good idea to get food out of sight and then it will be out of mind.
Try to remember that even if your meals are well balanced, “picking” on foods between meals can definitely interfere with your weight loss goals. Remember you want to become the one in charge of your choices, rather than allowing your emotions or your lack of awareness decide.