We always talk about what kinds of food and how much we should eat. But what about where? Does where you eat really make a difference, or is a bag of chips a bag of chips no matter what?
Hint: it matters!
Find out what places to avoid when hunger strikes, and what to do instead below.
1. No Zone: The Kitchen
The X Factor: Research shows we are most likely to eat the first thing we see. I didn't need research to tell me that - I barely look when I reach in the pantry. That means if a bag of chips is front and center, you may never think about the can of nuts or dried fruit that's sitting just behind it. Eating straight from the package (or the fridge or the pantry) tends to make us eat more as well, since we have no visual reference of how much we've eaten.
The Fix: Stock your fridge to battle your hunger in a healthy way: put fruit and healthy snacks at eye level in an easy-to-reach place. Store pre-portioned snacks in your pantry so you're not tempted to eat the whole bag while you're deciding what to have for dinner.
2. No Zone: The Car
The X Factor: Trying to eat a sandwich while steering with one hand, watching the road, and trying to ignore the demands from the backseat requires Herculean concentration - on everything but what and how much you're eating. Not to mention, a lot of on-the-go choices include high-calorie fast food picks.
The Fix: Pack portable snacks to take with you so distracted eating can't get the better of you. Choose healthier options when you're forced to make a stop on the go. Hint: Gas stations and convenience stores often have hidden baskets of fruit.
3. No Zone: In the Bedroom
The X Factor: Not only does eating in bed mean you might wake up with a Cheerio stuck to your cheek, it may also mess up your precious shut-eye. Eating late at night, particularly fatty foods, caffeine, spicy foods, and sugar, can interrupt your sleep. Sleep deprivation in turn can make you eat more, so it's a nasty cycle.
The Fix: If you're hungry at night, you may not have eaten enough during the day. Start by eating a bigger, satiating breakfast in the morning.
4. No Zone: Your Desk
The X Factor: You don't usually choose to eat at your desk because you enjoy the scenery. Instead it's usually so you can multitask and cut out of work a few minutes earlier. The problem is you pay attention to your work, not what you're eating. When you're not paying attention you eat more and may not remember later that you're full because you don't remember eating much. Not to mention it can cause a bad habit of associating working with eating.
The Fix: Take at least 15 minutes to put your work aside and focus solely on your lunch. Not worrying about unnecessary hunger later in the day may keep you more productive and still get you out the door earlier. It doesn't hurt to bring some healthy snacks with you so you're not tempted by the infamous office candy bowls.
5. No Zone: Your Kids' Plate
The X Factor: Your brain says, "It's not a meal so it doesn't count." Research says it's not just hunger that determines how much we eat, it's attention and memory too.
The Fix: Keep your hands off your kids' plates. If you need a snack while you're fixing theirs, place a small portion on your own plate.
6. No Zone: In Front of the TV
The X Factor: Mindlessly eating in front of your favorite Monday night drama means you pay little attention to what you're putting in your mouth. Tons of research has been done on eating and tv-watching, probably since we've all been guilty of this at some point or another. For example, research has shown that it's hard to accurately estimate how many calories you ate after eating and watching tv, and that people eat approximately 40% more food if they're also watching tv than if they were sitting at a table. Unfortunately elementary school kids eat almost 20% of their daily calories in front of the tv. In case you needed one more reason, we tend to eat until our show is over, not until we're not hungry any more.
The Fix: Turn off the tv, sit at a table, and enjoy a meal with your family. If you must eat while watching tv, at least choose a healthy, portioned snack.
-By Heather Neal
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