Mindless eating traps

To move away from mindless eating to a more mindful way of eating we need to look at our own eating environment and become more aware of when, why, how, what and how much we are eating.


We all think that we are immune, but most people fall into the trap of mindless eating. At the root of this concept is the view that we don’t just overeat because we’re hungry, but that we are slaves to the subtle eating cues that surrounded us every day. In studies done it was found that we will eat an average of 2.2 more candies each day if they are visible and only 1.8 more candies when they are moved to 2 meters away from us!


The danger with mindless eating is the unconscious munching that goes on. The age of social media and television has also not helped. Many people will eat their lunch while checking up on Facebook instead of focusing on their food and hunger. Dinner times are spent watching some addictive series. If you are not aware of how much or when you are eating, this WILL lead to overeating.


Top Mindless eating traps we need to be aware of and steer clear of:

1. The age of Convenience
We no longer have to feel hungry because food is available to us around every corner. We have had many clients tell us that they cannot actually remember the last time they were actually hungry. These days we never have to go far to find a café, coffee shop, vending machine etc. It is just getting easier and easier for us to eat mindlessly.

2. Nutrient-Poor Foods for the Taking
I guess it would probably be slightly better if mindless eating triggered us to eat healthy foods that pack a beneficial punch. But unfortunately, mindless eating usually involves high-calorie junk foods. Look at the options available at most tuck shops or petrol stations – not many salad bars around.

Environmental cues lead us to eat a lot of nutrient poor, high calorie convenient foods which are available almost everywhere.

3. #Eating while hash-tagging
One of the biggest mindless eating traps is eating while doing something else e.g. driving, watching TV, checking social media. When you eat while doing something else you are eating without thinking. And it can be difficult to stop as our brain stomach connection/awareness is subdued.

We need to start making sure that eating is something we do at a table without the TV, computer, tablet or smart phone. This will help cut out mindless eating as well as help you to become more aware of your food, your hunger and help you on your path to eating mindfully and enjoy your food.

4. Mindless Shopping
The way you shop can also affect your mindless eating. Grocery shopping without a shopping list or while tired or hungry is a recipe for disaster. We tend to buy things we don’t need and buy more unhealthy foods and are vulnerable to clever marketing ploys. If we shop while hungry we often open up quick high sugar, high salt or high fat snacks to satisfy that hunger while we push our trolley through the isles.  Once those items get into your pantry back home, the battle is lost. If you don’t buy it, it wont be a temptation for later.

If you are wanting to enjoy a treat, only bring home that specific amount or plan to go out for a treat. The intake of these less nutritious treat foods need to be planned instead of using them as a quick mindless snack.

5. Portion Distortion
Massive portions are everywhere. We are living in a society where we want to get the most for our money. So the bigger the better. Restaurants are often big culprits of this, but people want a deal and would probably not pay more for a smaller plate of food. Restaurants also make use of very big serving plates which can also fool you into thinking you are eating a smaller portion.

We need to be wary of the ‘get your money’s worth’ syndrome and check up on healthy portion sizes when buying pre-packaged food or eating out at restaurants.

6. Sipping up those Calories
What if sugary cold drinks had never been invented? Would our diabetes and obesity rates be lower, very possible! People who drink one or more sugary fizzy cold drinks a day are 27% more likely to be overweight than those who don’t.

This become a mindless eating issue because we don’t think about compensating for calories we consume in liquids. We often see people buying a sports drink to quench their thirst, but haven’t done a stich of exercise.  These drinks are extremely high in calories and should only be used for exercise lasting more than 90 minutes. Beverages are liquid calorie bombs and we need to think before we drink.

7. Cheap, poor quality Food
A bag of groceries used to cost about R100 but these days you are lucky if you can come away with a bag of groceries under R300. It’s easy to mindlessly eat when you are buying foods that don’t break the bank. So what happens is that we sometimes end up buying cheaper, poorer quality nutrient foods that are often low in fibre and high in refined carbohydrates. This does nothing for our satiety levels and you often end up eating again in 5 minutes.

For more information, or further advice on Mindless eating traps, contact Munchwize, Dieticians in Cape Town.

Source: Sharon Palmer, RD; Today’s Dietitian Vol. 12 No. 12 P. 30