It’s no secret overeating is one reason why so many Americans struggle to maintain a healthy weight. The good news is you can train your brain to overcome your unhealthy eating habits and tune into your body’s natural hunger.

Try these five tips and tricks to help avoid unnecessary eating:

Don’t skip meals

You know the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” If you skip breakfast, you are more likely to cave into mid-morning cravings and indulge in unhealthy snacks or overeat at lunch because you allowed yourself to reach ravenous hunger.

Drink a glass of water before eating

Thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Drink a glass of water before eating a meal or a snack. If drinking water satisfies the craving, then it was just thirst.

Wait 20 minutes before succumbing to a craving

Giving yourself 20 minutes before you eat allows you to avoid “emotional eating” of comfort or celebratory foods. If you are still dreaming of food twenty minutes later, chances are you actually hungry.

Eat slowly

There are many long-standing diet tips like, “sip water between bites” and “chew thoroughly before swallowing,” that encourage you to slow down while eating. Research shows, for most people, it takes about 12 to 20 minutes for food satisfaction signals to reach the brain. Scarfing down your food is likely to make you feel too full at the end of your meal because you did not allow your brain to keep up with your stomach. Eating slowly helps ensure these important messages have time to reach the brain and tell you to stop.

Indulge in foods that control appetite

When you feel full longer, you are less likely to give into boredom eating and overeating. To help stay satisfied longer, focus on meals that consist of fiber, lean protein, and complex carbs (rice, legumes, whole-grain pasta/bread, etc.). Try these nutritional powerhouse foods:

  • Lean animal protein: fish, shell fish, omega-3 eggs, skinless poultry, and low-fat dairy products (Greek yogurt is known for being especially filling)
  • Plant proteins: nuts, seeds, and especially beans
  • High fiber carbohydrates: look for fiber content of at least five grams of fiber per serving to achieve appetite control
  • Non-starchy vegetables: kale, cabbage, tomatoes, bell peppers, avocados, spinach, carrots, broccoli, and dark lettuces are full of fiber and nutrients.

Of course, do not deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy. Experts recommend setting a short-term goal and rewarding yourself with a splurge. If you deprive yourself of your cravings completely, you may end up binging once you give in.

To learn more about maintaining a healthy weight, visit the CDC’s website.

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