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Mindless eating: Are you eating more than you think?

OPINION by Alison Crane | January 4, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Many adults have reported gaining weight in the last year. With stress eating, staying home and gyms and fitness centers shut down or at only 20% capacity, it is no wonder that we are carrying a few extra pounds. Usually, each new year, we start thinking about making resolutions to lose weight, exercise more or get healthier. Maybe keeping resolutions is not your strong point but learning to be mindful about your eating can change your life forever.

Studies show that the average person makes around 250 decisions about food each day -- breakfast or no breakfast? Cereal or breakfast bar? Part of it or all of it? Kitchen or car? Most of these 250 plus food decisions we cannot really explain. Mindful eating is about paying attention to what we eat and how much we eat.

Instead of making blind food choices or eating whatever is convenient, mindful eating allows us to appreciate all that food has to offer our senses and the nourishment provided. When we pay attention to what we eat, we tend to eat less and choose foods that are higher in nutrition. Mindless eating happens when we are distracted from focusing on the food we are eating. Often, this involves eating in front of the TV and not savoring the taste, smells, and textures of the food which allows you to have time to know when you are full.

Eating mindfully is not a weight loss diet but it can help us to eliminate foods and habits that can lead to obesity. Improving our diet can also prevent other health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Eating is supposed to provide our bodies with the nutrients we need and alleviate the feeling of hunger. The goal of eating is to feel better after we have eaten.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School offers the following four basic rules for how to practice mindful eating:

  1. Slow down by allowing yourself to be in the moment and actually experience your meal.

  2. Tap into your hunger by evaluating how hungry you are and re-evaluate your hunger as you eat to prevent overeating.

  3. Use all five senses as you eat by consciously noting visual appeal of your meal as well as the smells, sounds, textures, and flavors.

  4. Value your meal by choosing healthy, nutritious foods that bring good value to your body and appreciate the work that had to happen for your food to be on your plate.

Beginning a new year will not be an automatic fix to the pandemic, but it is an opportunity to start fresh with making good health choices. Choosing to be mindful when eating is a good start and can make a difference that can last a lifetime.

If you would like to know more about programs that promote good health and are available through the Garland County Extension Service, call 501-623-6841 or email [email protected] Hippocrates said, "The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine." Start your good health with a recipe that is both tasty and healthy.

Garden Skillet

Yield: Four servings


10 oz (2 1/2 cups) bow tie pasta, uncooked

2 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 zucchinis, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges

1 1/2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

8 oz. package Cheddar cheese, diced

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare bow tie pasta according to package directions.

  2. Drain and set aside.

  3. Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet.

  4. Sauté garlic until golden brown.

  5. Add zucchini, red onion, and basil.

  6. Heat over medium heat until tender, about four to six minutes.

  7. Stir in pasta and heat through.

  8. Add cheese, salt, and pepper.

  9. Toss gently and serve immediately.

NOTES: Serving Size: One-sixth of recipe.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: Calories 239 Total Fat 5g Saturated Fat 3g Cholesterol 10mg Sodium 14 Carbohydrates 42g Fiber 3g Protein 8g

4-H information

There are several 4-H Clubs for our Garland County youths who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available for youths, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension Service office at 623-6841 or email her at [email protected]

Master Gardener information

Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month online. The meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension Service office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]

EHC information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For more information on EHC, call Alison Crane at 623-684 or email her at [email protected]


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