Parents and two children making a salad

With stay-at-home orders in place due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, we are all a lot closer to snacks and facing more stress, both of which can trigger overeating and bad food choices.

Use these healthy eating tips to keep your waistline in check, so that your work pants will still fit when you finally change out of your pajamas!

Reasons for Overeating

Recognizing the cues that make you want to eat when you are not hungry is an important step in maintaining healthy eating habits during stressful times.

Stress Eating

Consider whether you want to eat because you are stressed, bored or feeling emotional. Or are you actually hungry? Take a few minutes and do some mental detective work to determine why you want to eat.

If it could be stress or emotional eating, try some stress management techniques first.

Stay busy, keep your mind involved in something or get active. Exercising instead of stress eating is, perhaps, the best way to stay fit. There are many ways to exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, consider other activities to keep busy such as these virtual travel ideas or just staying connected to friends and family.

Mistaking Thirst for Hunger

If you think you really are hungry, but it is not mealtime, drink some water and see if you feel better. Hunger is often mistaken for thirst. Also, drinking water helps you stay hydrated.

Avoid drinking a sweetened beverage as that can trick the mind and stimulate hunger or spike your blood sugar.

Another option is to drink a warm, unsweetened beverage such as herbal tea, flavored tea or black coffee. This could satisfy your need to consume something if you are really not hungry but want a little something.

How to Stop Overeating

Knowing why you want to eat is the first step. Next, take action. Try these tips.

Set a Meal Schedule

If you think you want to eat but it is not mealtime, wait 10-15 minutes to see if you are still hungry. Even if you are still hungry, can you wait a bit longer until it is closer to mealtime?

If you are typically hungry at a certain time between meals, plan a time for a healthy snack. And stick to the schedule.

Eat Mindfully

When you do eat, and especially if you are satisfying a craving, give your body and mind time to enjoy each delicious bite.

  • Use all of your senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste. Incorporate all of these into your eating experience. This will help you savor every bite.
  • Sit down at the table. Banish distractions like watching a video or checking Facebook or emails. When you are distracted, you are most likely not paying attention to what you are eating or how much you are eating. If you are grazing every time you walk through the kitchen, it is more likely that you are not actually hungry.
  • Chew slowly. It takes about 15-20 minutes for food to reach your stomach and start registering that you are satisfied. If you eat too fast, you are more likely to overeat since your stomach won't have had time to register that it is full.

Eating Right

Finally, making good food choices will go a long way to keep you eating healthy.

Conquering Cravings

If you are truly hungry and have a hankering for something specific, make good choices rather than grabbing something processed and unhealthy.

  • If you want something sweet, choose fruit.
  • Craving salt? Measure one ounce of nuts or an ounce of hummus.
  • Sour could be a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
  • Creamy could be unsweetened yogurt (try plain and put in your own fruit for flavor).
  • Chewy options include a whole wheat English muffin.
  • For crunchy, try carrot sticks, celery or other raw veggies.
  • For a carb craving, try whole wheat crackers, like Triscuit Thins, which is a better choice than chips or standard crackers.
  • If you just need chocolate, allow yourself one square to satisfy that craving.

Can Takeout Be Healthy?

Many people are choosing to order in meals to support their local restaurants or for a change of pace.

That is fine. Just remember, when you order in, you often receive more food than you need in one sitting. Before you start to eat, put half in a container and save it for another meal.

And choose wisely.

  • Avoid French fries – choose a side salad, plain baked potato or soup instead.
  • Go easy on the cheese and avoid stuffed crust or cheese-stuffed pasta dishes.
  • Pass on anything fried or breaded.
  • Make sure sauces are not oily or sugar-sweetened.

Consider these healthy options instead:

  • Grilled chicken or fish
  • Plain sweet potatoes (not fries) or baked potatoes (add your own salsa to jazz it up)
  • Whole grain pasta or bread (but limit your portions)
  • Soups such as miso, butternut squash, vegetable, tomato basil, chicken tortilla, minestrone, wonton, egg drop and turkey chili

Salad Tips

Salad can be a good takeout choice, but too often, they are lettuce topped with unhealthy choices, like dried fruits, breaded chicken and high calorie dressings.

Choose light oil and vinegar or use a tiny amount of dressing. Ask for the dressing on the side and lightly dip each bite in the dressing.

You can also make your own light dressing rather than using the dressing that comes with the salad.

Practice Portion Control

As important as what to eat is how much to eat. Try to satisfy your craving with a small portion of what you want.

Use the MyPlate guidelines to fill your plate with the right amount of food.

You do NOT need to clean your plate. Eat until you are nearly full, not until there is nothing left on your plate. You can always put it away for later.

Portioning out meals and snacks ahead of time will help. Buying snack-size bags can be very helpful to avoid overeating.

If you buy a value sized bag of snacks, take a few minutes to look at the nutrition label and portion out baggies of the snack according to the package recommendations. By pre-making snack bags, you are less likely to graze or sit down with an entire family-sized bag of snacks and mindlessly eat.