Before mindlessly eating potato chips, or even or chocolate chips, straight out of the bag, ask yourself, “Am I hungry, or is this stress or boredom?”

Yes, I’m hungry

If you are hungry, the best thing to do is eat ̶ but do it mindfully. Give the food your full attention. Eating mindfully means making eating a singular activity versus doing it while watching TV, working on the computer, or reading the paper.

“When we eat mindlessly, it’s as if we are feeding someone else,” says Pat Salzer, RD, Workplace Wellness Support Coordinator at Univera Healthcare. “It takes more food and calories to feel satisfied if you aren’t focused.”

No, it’s not hunger

If you are not truly hungry, you may be eating for other reasons, such as boredom or stress. Salzer reminds that the word stressed, spelled backwards, is desserts!

“It may help to have a ‘joy list’ or ‘menu of comfort’ to refer to that doesn’t involve food when you need some soothing,” Salzer suggests.

Non-food activities

  • Enjoy a cup of tea
  • Call a friend
  • Meditate, journal, breath, day dream
  • Work on a puzzle or sudoku
  • Clean out a drawer (probably not one in the kitchen)
  • Get moving: walk around your house or yard
  • Put on some music.
  • Read a magazine for 20 minutes
  • Play with your pets or children

Create a routine

Have meal options (and snacks) planned out so that you can eat healthy when you are hungry. This can minimize eating your way through the kitchen.

“I don’t recommend eating based strictly on the clock, but I do suggest building time into the day to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling, assess whether or not you’re stressed or bored, and if you’re hungry, what it is that you’d like to eat,” said Salzer.

Meal planning basics

Half of Your Plate

Fruits and veggies – a variety of fresh, canned (low sodium and without added sugar), or frozen (without butter or sauce)

One-quarter of Your Plate

Protein – choose from beans, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, or lean meats, poultry, and seafood.

One-quarter of Your Plate

Whole grains – have brown rice or quinoa precooked in the fridge, or whole grain bread or pasta ready to prepare.