Ever look at your empty plate and wonder, “Huh, where did that sandwich (or cake ... or spaghetti and meatballs) go?” New research from the University of Utah reveals that most of you now spend 50 percent of your eating time focused on something other than the food in front of you! Researchers identified stealthy distractions that lead to food choices and weight gain that you’ll regret.
So here’s a better idea: Adopt mindful eating habits that’ll help you turn good intentions (”I’ll eat healthy tomorrow!” “I’ll start losing weight next week!”) into reality today. You’ll savor every bite, sip and spoonful guilt-free, and love the results.
▪ Create a peaceful environment. Turn off the TV. Turn down the music! In a recent University of Illinois study, families that ate dinner while a loud vacuum cleaner roared in the next room made loads of mealtime mistakes. Parents ate more cookies and drank more diet sodas, which studies show raise risk for weight gain and blood-sugar-control problems. And they paid less attention to their children. Mindful change: You’ll eat healthier in a quiet setting, so be a role model for good eating and connect more with your family. These factors will help you and your kids make healthier food choices and avoid weight gain in the future.
▪ Allow ample time to eat. Slow down when you dine in mixed company. In a recent study from our friends at Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab, guys devoured 92 percent more pizza when their lunch partners included women. And women who lunched with men said they felt rushed and overate as a result. The guys also ate 86 percent more salad — a great choice provided you go with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mindful change: Slow eating gives your brain and body time to register that you’re full. You’ll feel more satisfied with fewer calories.
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▪ Avoid being influenced by where you eat or your dining companion’s appearance. Remind yourself about your eating goals before you order in a restaurant or serve yourself at home. In another revealing study, people who had a meal with an overweight dining partner overate high-calorie foods and skimped on healthy foods even when their dining partner made healthy choices. Other studies have found that folks who are overweight (that’s almost 70 percent of you) tend to overeat when dining away from home. Mindful change: Stick with your eating plan! Easy system: Fill half your plate with produce (largely veggies other than potatoes), one-fourth with whole grains and the rest with lean protein.
▪ Don’t drive and dine. Yup, 86 percent of drivers in one national survey admitted to noshing while driving. That doubles your odds for a crash and increases the chances that you’ll dig into, and scarcely notice, that large order of fries, burger and a shake you just picked up. You’ll feel less satisfied, and that drive-through doughnut shop up ahead will start lookin’ real good. Mindful change: If you’ve gotta eat on the road, order a healthy sandwich or salad from a deli or convenience store. Pair it with fruit and a bottle of water, tea or coffee. Find a safe and attractive place to stop (like a local park or the parking lot of a church or library), turn off the car and focus on your meal. Add a 10-15 minute stroll, then continue your drive refreshed and full.
▪ Keep your counters clear of temptations. Out of sight, out of mouth. It’s no surprise that people who keep soda and snacks out on the kitchen counter weigh more than those whose easy-to-grab snack is fruit. But did you know breakfast cereal can be a weight-gain culprit, too? Munching handfuls when you’re bored or hungry can add up! Mindful change: Set yourself up for healthy-eating success by limiting counter foods to delicious, ready-to-eat fruit and nuts.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.