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Foods that trigger overeating

Have you ever eaten a box of cookies in one sitting or polished off a pint of ice cream by yourself? Certain calorie-dense foods, especially those loaded with refined sugars, can trigger overeating and cause you to overindulge.

“The most common trigger foods are highly palatable foods filled with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats,” says Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a therapeutic dietitian at Piedmont’s Fuqua Heart Center. “This includes soft drinks, chips, cakes, cookies and pies. The more you eat, the more you’ll want.”

Hunger versus craving

But it’s not only sugary foods that play a role in overindulging.  Your eating habits can also cause you to overeat. 

 “We have a phenomenon called hunger versus craving,” says Beal. “When you are hungry, you need to eat. But when you are craving something, you only want to eat.”

Beal says people often have a difficult time distinguishing between hunger and cravings because:

  • They skip meals.
  • Don’t eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Eat a restrictive diet.

“An inconsistent meal pattern [skipping meals] will trigger overeating,” says Beal. “And when you have a restrictive diet, like the cabbage soup diet or the grapefruit diet, you are not going to get all of the essential nutrients you need.  You are going to crave the things you are avoiding, and eventually overindulge because of it.”

Here are seven ways to fight food cravings:

Tips to prevent overeating

If you really want chips or cookies, go ahead and have them. But it’s important to be mindful of your eating habits and work on changing them for the better.  To prevent overeating, Beal suggests the following tips:

  • Have a glass of water before the meal, because a glass of water makes you feel full.
  • Make sure you are eating a well-balanced meal, which consists of a lean protein, a whole grain starch, a fruit and a vegetable. And eat them in that order. If you want seconds, start with fruits and vegetables, and if you are still hungry get the starch and then protein.
  • Eat on a schedule. Make sure it is the same time and same amount of food every day.
  • If you crave something, have it. But do it in a healthy way. If you are craving chips with your lunch, get them. And pair it with a healthier option like a salad.   
  • Store granola or trail mix in your desk drawer to have healthier, convenient snack options.

For more helpful, healthful tips, click here.

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