Posts Tagged ‘Mindless Eating’

Laptop on Kitchen Table with Cup of CoffeeShould you eat lunch at your desk?

Do you find yourself eating at your desk at work more and more often?  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that at least 83% of Americans eat at their desk several times a week. While many of us would prefer to have lunch with a friend or at least go out for lunch, we often find ourselves “too busy” to do so.

So is eating at your desk healthy?  When we eat at our desk, we often are totally unaware of just what and how much we are eating. We’re not focused on the food as we answer emails, sort papers and answer phone calls. But you can make healthy choices by bringing your lunch from home and avoiding take-out lunches which can tend to have excess calories, fat, and sodium and are often lacking in nutrients. Some healthy lunch choices could include:

  • A salad with added protein and fiber – some leftover chicken, healthy beans and/or nuts.
  • A whole grain wrap filled with veggies.
  • Homemade or low-sodium prepared soup that you can heat in the microwave.
  • Yogurt with added fruit and granola.
  • A sweet potato or fresh vegetables that you can pop into the microwave.
  • Water with a slice of lemon, lime or orange.
  • For a sweet ending to your lunch, fresh fruit makes a great dessert.

If you are bringing your lunch from home, use an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack to keep your food cold until you can put it in the refrigerator at work. You want to be sure and wash your hands before eating your lunch and clean your desk top. According to an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey only 36 percent of survey respondents said they clean their work areas, desktop, mouse and keyboard on a weekly basis; 64 percent said they do so on a monthly basis or less.

A 2007 study from the University of Arizona found that desktops have 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat!

So, if you are going to eat at your desk, take a few minutes to disinfect the area before opening your food. Once you start eating, avoid touching your phone, mouse,
etc. as you could be constantly re-contaminating your food.  You might also use a placemat or at least a paper towel under your lunch for added protection!

To answer the question, eating at your desk is not the healthiest activity!  Not only are you likely to eat more unhealthy foods, you are risking contaminating your food and potentially becoming ill. Take a little time for yourself at lunch time – walk to the kitchen or break room, invite a co-worker to join you and enjoy that healthy lunch you have prepared!

Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@sou.edu

Reviewed by:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Treber.1@osu.edu



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Nuts are a holiday staple.  No, I’m not referring to “Clark”, “Cousin Eddie” or “Aunt Grace”; but those flavorful, nutrient-dense, crunchy, versatile, snacks that adorn most holiday tables.  Nuts are high in protein and fiber, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free, unless salted.  Nuts in general are high in fat. However, these are mono- and poly-unsaturated fats; which are the good fats, and lower amounts of the saturated fats, or bad fats.  Some varieties of nuts can also be excellent sources of important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium, and/or phosphorus.

Here’s a closer look at the nutritional value of nuts:Various Nuts

Almonds:  Approximately 23 nuts equal a 1-ounce serving which has 164 calories, 6 g of protein, 7 g of carbohydrates, 14.4 g of fat and 3.3 g of fiber. Due to their protein and fiber content, almonds keep you satisfied for hours.  They are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and calcium.

Peanuts:  Approximately 40 shelled nuts equal a 1-ounce serving which has 160 calories, 7.3 g of protein, 6 g of carbohydrates, 14 g of fat and 2.6 g of fiber.  Often referred to as legumes, they are high in protein, folate, and iron.

Pistachios:  Approximately 47 nuts equal a 1-ounce serving which has 158 calories, 5.8 g of protein, 7 g of carbohydrates, 12.6 g of fat and 2.9 g of fiber.  Pistachios are known as a potassium powerhouse with good amounts of protein and fiber.

Cashews:  Approximately 18 halves equal a 1-ounce serving which has 160 calories, 4 g of protein, 9 g of carbohydrates, 13.3 g of fat and 0.9 g of fiber.  These nuts are lower in fiber, but provide 69 percent of the RDA for copper, 27 percent for magnesium and 10 percent for iron.

Hazelnuts:  Approximately 21 nuts equal a 1-ounce serving which has 178 calories, 4 g of protein, 4 g of carbohydrates, 17.2 g of fat and 1.4 g of fiber.  Loaded with Vitamin E, fiber and iron, hazelnuts boast the second-highest proportion of monounsaturated fat.

Brazil Nuts:  Approximately 7 nuts equal a 1-ounce serving which has 186 calories, 4 g of protein, 4 g of carbohydrates, 18.8 g of fat and 2.1 g of fiber.  Brazil Nuts, known for magnesium also have a lot of the antioxidant selenium; overdosing can cause health problems.

Pecans:  Approximately 20 halves is a 1-ounce serving which has 196 calories, 2 g of protein, 5 g of carbohydrates, 20.4 g of fat and 2.7 g of fiber.  One serving provides 38 percent of the RDA for cooper and 16 percent for zinc.

Walnuts:  Approximately 14 halves equal a 1-ounce serving which has 185 calories, 4 g of protein, 5 g or carbohydrates, 18.5 g of fat and 1.9 g of fiber.  Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.  A serving has more than 100 percent of your daily needs for this heart-healthy fat.

As you enjoy the nutritional benefits of nuts, remember to portion out a 1-ounce serving to avoid “grazing” on them. While they have nutritional qualities and health benefits, their calories will quickly add up.

Aside from adorning the holiday tablescape and snacking, more and more people are finding new ways to add nuts to perk up their foods throughout the year.  Here are just a few ways to get you thinking of the many possibilities:

  • Add chopped nuts to yogurt or cereal.
  • Add roasted nuts to a salad, casserole or dessert for added crunch and flavor.
  • Nuts add an extra crunch to cookies and brownies.
  • Mix nuts with cereal, pretzels, mini marshmallows and dried fruit for a pick-up and go snack.
  • Add pizzazz to cream cheese with chopped nuts for a tasty spread.
  • Enjoy with apple slices for a delicious bedtime snack!

Written by:  Cynthia R. Shuster, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, PerryCounty, Buckeye Hills EERA

Reviewer:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences/EFNEP, Hamilton County, Miami Valley EERA

Reviewer:  Jennifer Lindimore, Ohio State University Extension Office Associate, Morgan County, Buckeye Hills EERA


USDA – Nutrient Data Lab.  http://ndb.nal.usda.gov

International Nut and Dried Fruit Council Foundation (2007). www.nutfruit.org

International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation (2002). Go Nuts Everyday.

International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation (2004).  Live Healthy, Go Nuts.

The Peanut Institute (2004). www.peanut-institute.org.

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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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We all have favorite foods that we enjoy.  According to USDA ChooseMyPlate Tip Sheet, you can enjoy your meals while making small adjustments.  One of the easiest things we can do is to fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables.  Make your protein portion a little smaller and pick whole grains.  Add your low-fat or non-fat dairy and you are on your way to a healthier meal.

Here are some tips to enjoying your meals:

  • Get to know the foods you eat.  Use the SuperTracker https://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker/ to learn about the foods you eat.  Make healthier selections by using these free online tools.  You can find out the kinds of foods and how much to eat.  It is free and easy to use.
  • Options on your Custom SuperTracker:
  1. Track your physical activity
  2. Track the foods you eat
  3. Set 5 goals to improve health habits
  4. Manage your weight
  5. Receive coaching tips
  • Use a Smaller Plate

Use a smaller plate at meals to help with portion control.  That way you can finish your entire plate and feel satisfied without overeating.

Use a Smaller Plate

Mindful Eating on a Smaller Plate

  • Take your time

Be mindful to eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures, and pay attention to how you feel.  Use hunger and fullness cues to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.

  • If you eat out, choose healthier options

Check and compare nutrition information about the foods you are eating.  Preparing food at home makes it easier to control what is in your meals.

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way

Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish- fruit!  Serve a fruit parfait made with yogurt.  For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon.

Baked Apples

  • Make treats “treats,” not everyday foods

Treats are great once in a while.  Just don’t make treat foods an everyday choice.  Limit sweet treats to special occasions.

Remember to enjoy the food you eat, make healthy substitutions and move more.  Take a few minutes to sign up for the SuperTracker to help you get “on track” to a healthier lifestyle.

Writer:  Michelle Treber, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator

Source:  USDA www.ChooseMyPlate.gov


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Hunger strikes and you are out shopping for the holidays.  No time to cook?  It is so convenient to go through the drive thru and pick up a meal.

Instead of ordering the first thing you see on the menu, plan ahead to pick some healthier choices.  If you have those choices in mind, you can make good selections at the drive thru window.

How can you make a healthier choice?

  • Think SMALL not large.  Check out the child’s menu.  Order a smaller sandwich or side dish.
  • Watch anything that is breaded or fried.  Choose GRILLED instead.
  • Choose a SALAD but go easy on the dressings, bacon, cheese and sour cream.  Ask for light or low-fat dressings.
  • Watch the calories in BEVERAGES.  Order water, unsweet tea or diet sodas to reduce calories.
French Fries

French Fries

Here are some calorie and fat comparisons from some national chain restaurants.

Be informed, know the calorie content and use that information to make a healthier choice.

McDonald’s Restaurant

Single Cheeseburger                                             300 calories       12 grams fat

Double Quarter Pounder w. Cheese                        740 calories        42 grams fat

Small Fries                                                           230 calories        11 grams fat

Large Fries                                                           500 calories       25 grams fat

Taco Bell

Crunchy Taco                                                       170 calories        10 grams fat

Fiesta Taco Salad- Chicken                                    730 calories        35 grams fat


6″ Veggie Delight                                                 230 calories         2.5 grams fat

6″ Spicy Italian                                                    480 calories         24 grams fat

Remember “extras” add up.  Adding mayonnaise to your sandwich can add 100-110 calories and 12 grams fat.  Veggies, vinegar, pickles and peppers only add flavor, not calories.  Add a variety for additional flavor.

Veggie Sub

Veggie Sub

As you can see, you can make healthy choices while visiting a fast food restaurant.  Think fresh, grilled and portion size.  Watch the “extras” – they may just add fat and calories.  Pack a piece of fruit or vegetables with you so you aren’t famished.
Please note:  this article is not endorsing restaurants but is for informational purposes only.
Nutritional Guide to Fast Food  Healthy Ohioans (2004).  www.healthyohioans.org
McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items from http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf
Subway Nutrition Information from http://www.subway.com/nutrition/nutritionlist.aspx

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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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Try a small bowl if you have to have ice cream.

Are you immune to overeating? Does the bowl size you eat out of influence how much you eat?
Many of us think we have it figured out but according to a recent article in “Nutrition Action Healthletter” with Brian Wansink, the author of Mindless Eating-Why We Eat More Than We Think, we need help. He found that even informed intelligent people who had been trained with illustrations and videotapes ate more when offered food in a large bowl versus a smaller bowl. The problem seems to be that once they have learned about it, we don’t think it will influence us. However, when it comes to eating we don’t have a good track record. He found the smarter people are the more they can be fooled, because they are overconfident.

Many people find a rationale to eat more. We say “I will start dieting tomorrow.” “It’s Friday or a day to celebrate.” “I had a bad day.” We tend to think of ways to make the day unique, so we can eat what and how much we want rather than how we really should be eating.

We also tend to eat more when the food is labeled “low-fat,” although the calorie amount may be similar to the regular version of the food. The people in the study estimated that a low-fat version of a snack had 40% less calories. Whereas, it actually only had 11% fewer calories and most of the people ate more of the snack. We tend to underestimate calories. Many people think that if the food is “organic,” it has to have fewer calories. He calls this the “halo” effect. If we think the food is good for us we will estimate the calories lower and eat more of it.

So what can help us? Mr. Wansink recommends using a small plate and bowl, smaller serving spoons, put the healthy food front and center where it is the first thing you see, and package food in small containers or individual servings, especially if you buy in bulk. For many people the 100 calorie packs help them with self-control. What tips do you have that help you avoid overeating?

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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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