Posts Tagged ‘Distracted Eating’

With Halloween and Harvest festivities right around the corner, it’s time to pick out costumes and get ready to go Trick or Treating (or Trunk or Treating).  Traditionally, most people handout goodies that the kids love to eat including candy and other sugar products.  While it’s okay to indulge in these on occasion, the truth is that rates of overweight and obese children are on the rise.  It’s time to start taking responsibility for what our youth are putting into their bodies.  One way to do this would be to start choosing healthier ‘treats’ when we hand out to the children.  Now we don’t have to go to the extreme of only handing out tooth brushes and pennies, but instead of just buying whatever candy is on sale this year compare food labels and determine what a good choice is.  Halloween isn’t just limited to food, kids love to get little gifts in their treat bags.  Below are some fun ideas that you can use this holiday.

Food Options:

Use the MyPlate as your guide as you choose individually wrapped snacks that will be easy to handout and provide some type of nutritional value.  For example, from the fruits and vegetables food groups hand out sealed containers of carrot and celery sticks, apple sauce or fruit cups.  Another option would be 100% fruit or vegetable juice boxes.  For the grains and protein food groups you could hand out bags of cheese and crackers, trail mix, pretzels, or mixed nuts.  Keep in mind that some children have nut allergies so it’s best to check with the parents if you are giving them anything that has been in contact with peanuts and other nut products.  For the dairy group you could hand out low-fat milk jugs or pudding cups.  *Please keep in mind that all of these items should be packaged and sealed.  If you handout homemade treats chances are that parents will throw these away, so it’s better to just purchase something that’s already made.

Non-Food Items:

Kids don’t love JUST candy.  Often times it’s exciting to receive some type of gift.  You can get these at your local discount or bulk store at a pretty reasonable price.  Items that promote physical activity are a great idea because after they eat all of their candy they can get some exercise as well.  These would include: balls, Frisbees, chalk for drawing hopscotch on the driveway, and jump ropes.  You can also choose items like pencils, little notebooks, yoyos, silly bands, small coloring books, crayons, pencil toppers, toy cars or play jewelry, fake tattoos, etc. These are fun, inexpensive items that you can buy in bulk and pass out to the children.    Be careful handing out very small items to young children because of choking reasons.

Whatever you choose to give out this year please think about how it will affect the children.  A treat once in a while is perfectly okay, but most of us remember stuffing themselves full of candy at the end of the night.  We need to face childhood obesity head on and give our children some healthier options.

Written by: Dana Brown, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Morrow County, http://morrow.osu.edu, brown.4643@osu.edu.

Reviewed by:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County


Burnett, N [2012].  Alternatives for a healthy Halloween.   Available at: http://www.johnson.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=1281

Hunter, J [2008].  Celebrate Halloween the Healthy Way.  Available at:  http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/hot_topics/2008/10halloween.html


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If you’re like most people in this country, you could lose a few pounds for either personal appearance or for health concerns. A simple way to accomplish this is to avoid overeating. Overeating is when you eat more food than what your body needs for daily maintenance and growth. The extra food you consume simply has no purpose for your body and therefore gets stored as fat. Overeating is triggered by different signals in different people. These may be the temptation of seeing delicious looking food or even just smelling food.

The first step to conquering overeating is portion sizes. In a study examining recipes from The Joy of Cooking cookbook from the last 75 years, recipes have 63% more calories in them now compared to 75 years ago. About 2/3 of this is because the serving have increased in size, the other third is because the recipes have more energy-dense ingredients such as butter. Next time you cook from a recipe, look at the suggested serving size and compare it to how much you should be having. If it’s more than what you need, adjust the recipe size to make as much as you need or put some away for leftovers right away so you’re not tempted to eat everything.

The size of your plates also makes a difference in how much you eat. Believe it or not, people who eat with larger plates, bowls and glasses consume more food without even realizing it. If you’re the type of person who knows they’re done eating when your plate is clean, you will consistently eat more food. In a famous study by Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University, some participants were given soup bowls that constantly filled with more soup and others normal soup bowls. The bottomless soup bowl participants consumed on average 72% more soup. The surprising result was that these people said they were not full even after consuming well over a normal bowl of soup because their brain did not register how much they have eaten.

To prevent these events from happening, simple steps can be taken.

  1. Look at the portion sizes given in recipes and restaurants. If it is too much, set it aside immediately to take home as leftovers. Ask for a to-go box when you order even.
  2. Start using smaller chinaware. Plates, bowls and even glasses all contribute to overeating. Try using tall, skinny glasses that look like more fluid than short, wide glasses.
  3. You don’t have to clean your plate. Times have changed since you were a child, and it is perfectly acceptable to leave food on your plate. Just save it for leftovers.

Written by: Andrew R. Richardson, Dietetic Intern with Wood County Extension FCS Program, Masters Food & Nutrition Program, Bowling Green State University, School of Family & Consumer Sciences.

Information gathered from:

Brain Wansink. Modifying the food environment: from mindless eating to mindlessly eating better [pdf document]. Retrieved from Con Agra Foods Science Institute at http://www.rippeinfoservices.com/conagra-foods-science-institute/webinars/introduction.htm

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The goodies of the Holidays are hard to resist.  Now that the holidays are almost over how do you stop your body from wanting more of those goodies you ate?   How do you stop the mid-afternoon, evening or all-day cravings?

First, it may help to understand your body.  Our body thrives on routine and wants us to eat at the same times.  The fat and sugar in many goodies satisfies our tests preferences.  Thus, our body actually opposes us when we make changes in the way we eat.

There is hope!  Although our body likes the goodies and constant eating, we just have to replace with good habits and follow them.  Every time you resist temptations you set up a pattern to resist the next one.   Each time you eat a healthy meal, one you planned to eat at a set time, you start up a positive eating cycle.  So, if you have not been a breakfast eater and start eating breakfast every morning, before long your body will desire breakfast everyday.   You can make your body work for you.

When you are hungry try to eat a healthy food instead of candy or left over cookies.  Eat an apple or orange.   By eating a healthy food you actually weaken your urge to eat the high-calorie treats when you are “starving.”  It will probably be hard at first, but it does work

Don’t watch the food commercials or the food channel on television when you have low resistance.  Turn pages quickly in magazines when you see food or recipes.  It’s hard to resist tempting foods when we smell them too.  So, breathe through you mouth when you are around tempting foods.

By eating regular meals and snacks you can avoid being very hungry which will help  decrease your cravings for certain foods.  Setting up this planned meal and snacks routine will help as your body likes structure.  Your body will be less likely to encourage you to break the rules.

You can use the tapping technique which has been proven to work to help people resist cravings.  Place your five fingers of one hand on your forehead.   Tap each finger in turn at intervals of one second while watching each one carefully as it taps.  Keep repeating until the craving disappears.  Other suggestions when trying to stop a craving include tell yourself “not today”  and wait 15-20 minutes while you call a friend, chew a piece of sugar-free gum, brush your teeth, drink a glass of water, go for a walk or meditate.  Keep a record of your thoughts and feelings leading to the craving and what methods worked best.

Starting some healthier habits can be hard.  One way is to make it a gradual transition from the old way to the new healthier way.  Give yourself some time but remember that each time you resist or change to eating healthier you are making progress.


Roberts, S. and Sargent, B.K. (2009).  The Instinct Diet, Tufts Media., Medford, MA.

USDA website, Choose My Plate available at http://www.choosemyplate.com

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If so, sign up for our Zero Weight Gain Email Challenge.

If your scales say HELP…..

Would you like to maintain or even lose weight this holiday season, rather than gaining the typical 3 – 5 pounds? Ohio State University Extension is again offering their popular on-line Zero Weight Gain Holiday Challenge. This 7 week challenge will last from November 21 to January 9 and offer 2 messages a week to inspire you to improve your health and maintain without gaining. Many of our participants over the last 4 years have lost weight, when they start keeping track of what they eat.

This on-line challenge is designed to help participants not gain holiday weight by encouraging regular exercise, nutrition, recipe substitutions, and wellness tips. Participants will receive twice weekly e-communications via blogs, facebook, and email with tips and recipes. All participant information is kept confidential. Program only available for adults, ages 18 and over.

Additional food and activity logs will be available for download to help participants track their progress. A pre and post challenge survey will be used to collect comments to improve future challenges and track participant progress.

Adults interested in participating in this on-line challenge should send an e-mail to treber.1@osu.edu with Zero Weight Gain in the subject line and subscribe in the body of the email. You’ll be enrolled and begin receiving e-communications starting November 21. While facebook will be utilized, participants only need to have an email address.

Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Pickaway County/Heart of Ohio

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Everyone seems to be on the fast track these days. Healthy eating can be a challenge in our fast paced world. When we’re rushing from work, kids’ activities, or our own commitments, we often grab something quick to eat on the go. In the process, we might be sacrificing good nutrition. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. If we think ahead and plan, we can make better choices for those meals and snacks on the run. 

*Check Nutrition Facts labels on products or the nutrition information available at fast food restaurants to get valuable information to guide your selections.  Grab and go foods often are high in fat, sodium and sugars and low in important vitamins and minerals. A good rule of thumb is the 5-20 guide. One serving of food with 5% or less Daily Value is considered low in that nutrient. One serving of food with a 20% or higher Daily Value is considered high in that nutrient.

 *Plan your grocery shopping with plenty of fruits and vegetables that can supplement a grab and go meal that is often lacking in nutrient rich fruits and vegetables.  Planning and eating more meals at home can be a healthy option.

 *Watch your portion size.  You can easily pack on extra calories if your portion size is large or “super size.”  Often times, items packaged as single portions actually provide 2 or more servings. For example, a large bagel may actually equal 3 or 4 servings from the Grains Group.  So don’t confuse portions and servings.  

 Taking a few minutes to read labels, plan your shopping and meals, and control your portion size can help ensure more nutritious meals even when you have to eat on the run.

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pictures of unhealthy foods such as curly fries                 Are you aware of what you last ate or how much?  Think about the last time you were watching T.V. and sat mindlessly eating.  Sometimes we do this and can’t believe we ate “the whole thing”.  We may not even remember if we even enjoyed the taste of the food.  Often we feel guilty or ill after eating so much.  The term to define this type of behavior is mindless or distracted eating.  Not only can this be dangerous to your health but it is likely to become a habit.  Unless we try to correct this behavior this may become the norm.    

                We make many food decisions every day.  Research shows we make as many as 200 overlooked food decisions each day.  An overlooked decision is one made without being aware we are making them. The decision about what to eat, how much to eat, or whether to even eat is based on habits or what we do most days.  Other things that impact the decisions are seeing or smelling foods and what is available.  The decisions are often influenced by external environmental cues.  Often we operate on auto pilot, not even aware of our moment to moment choices or actions.

                Suggested action steps to improve these eating habits or distracted eating include:

v  Try to minimize distractions when you eat.  Don’t have the T.V., computer, cell or smart phone on, or be reading the newspaper when eating.

v  Eat at the table and be sitting down.

v  Don’t eat while working at your desk or while driving.

v  Sit next to the slowest eater at the table and pace yourself by using them as a benchmark.  Slow down and enjoy every bite of your food.  Make your meal last at least 20 minutes.

v  Use smaller bowls or plates.  People eat up to 60% more when using larger tableware.

v  See what you eat.  Don’t eat out of a bag or package, put it on a plate or bowl.

v  Keep the tempting treats at the back or the cupboard or refrigerator and wrap them in foil.

Making deliberate decisions rather than acting without thinking it through is crucial.  Mindless eating is something most people do at some point, but thinking your choices through and being more mindful can make a huge difference in your health and overall diet.

 Source:  eXtension, Mindful Versus Mindless Eating, January, 5, 2011.

 Author:  Liz Smith, F.C.S. Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension.

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