Labeling a meal as “healthy”
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There are plenty of reasons why you overeat when you aren’t hungry. But how can being hungry and trying to make a healthier choice lead to accidental overeating?
When you eat something you think is healthy on the menu, chances are you’ll feel less guilty about eating it. And with less guilt surrounding a meal, you’re actually more likely to eat too much! Studies show that we consistently underestimate the calorie content of foods we think are healthy, and then overeat them because we feel like we’re making a great choice for our health.
How to fight back:
Always pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, even when you’re eating healthy fare. Eat slowly and put your fork down after every few bites, and stop when you’re satisfied, not stuffed. These are the subtle things mindful eaters do at every meal to stay in control.
If you’re choosing between the spaghetti and meatballs that you’ll really enjoy and the spinach salad that you won’t feel guilty about, occasionally opt for the pasta, eat it with appreciation, and stop when you’re satisfied. You’ll likely end up eating fewer calories than you would if you’d scarfed down a bucket of salad—probably with fattening extras like croutons or cheese or candied nuts.
Snacking from the bag
When you have a full bag of nuts, popcorn, or other snacks in front of you, it’s all too easy to keep reaching your hand in to grab a few at a time. And before you know it, you’re touching down on bag-bottom.
When you’ve got a whole container in front of you, it’s nearly impossible to gauge how much you’ve eaten until you’ve surprised yourself by making it disappear. Don’t get tricked into eating the whole container simply because you’ve got the whole container in front of you!
How to fight back:
When you buy a family-sized container of something, separate it out into individual serving sizes—in baggies or small plastic containers—before you eat any of it. When you want to snack on the pretzels, peanuts, or whatever you’ve portioned out, grab one serving and step away from the rest. It’s much easier to resist grabbing another handful of something when it means getting up and heading back to the cupboard. Here are more tricks for eating in moderation.