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Skip the meals and go straight to the munchies. Granola bars, cookies, nuts, potato chips, popcorn, candy, pretzels, ice cream. We’re a snacking society. Not only do we snack all day and night, main meals are often replaced with snacks as well. All these goodies can add up to significantly more calories if we don’t choose our foods wisely.

We make more than 200 decisions about food each day, and most are made unconsciously. Rarely do we choose to eat because we are hungry. Instead, we’re prompted by outer influences—stress, a clock that says that it is meal time, boredom, or a reward.

And we eat more when distracted watching TV, listening to music, playing a game, reading, or worse, the food is just present. Studies show that if offered an unlimited amount of food, particularly when empty plates are continuously cleared away, we will eat 73% more than we would otherwise. Who doesn’t eat at work simply because the food is in front of us? It may not even be items we particularly care for, but there it is, so we fill a plate and mindlessly munch while working.

We can consume fewer calories if we use smaller plates, select from smaller containers, decrease the variety of choices on hand so we don’t sample all that is out, don’t buy in bulk, choose healthy foods only, and keep higher calorie ones in areas that are difficult to retrieve, or better yet, not bring them into the home or office. Although all foods contain calories, choosing grapes, almonds, carrots, cheddar cheese, and dark chocolate offer significantly more nutritional value than potato chips, gummy worms, and crackers.

We also should avoid late-night snacks. Although that is when we are more likely to be drawn to high-calorie foods, studies find that food isn’t as satisfying at night. We can end up eating more and choosing foods that are the least healthy.

We’ll also eat less if we eat slowly. Since we’re influenced by the people we eat with, dining with a slower eater can help us slow down. Taking at least 20-30 minutes to finish a meal allows our body to release hormones that promote feelings of fullness.

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Have you read Walking Away from Alzheimer’s Disease on my other blog?

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