If the idea of eating healthy turns you off because you want to eat what you want, when you want and how much you want, you should tune in…literally.

The desire to eat freely with a lack of control is often a habit formed from mindless eating. When you pay more attention to what you eat, you will find you have a natural “off” switch and will feel more satisfied with less. This makes a healthy diet, believe it or not, really enjoyable. It is easy to fall into mindless eating with an on-the-go lifestyle, but it is possible to tune in, even when life is hectic.

First, eat more often.

You are not likely to choose a handful of carrots over French fries when you are starving. Intense hunger drives cravings for more calorie-dense foods. Eating every two to three hours — try eating three meals and two snacks — will keep you on top of your hunger. This, in turn, helps you tune into the foods your mind is telling your body it needs, rather than giving in to your growling stomach. Furthermore, combining two food groups at snack time makes it more satisfying and delicious. Here a few of my 150- to 200-calorie favorites:

  • 14 almonds with 2 dates
  • 10 cashews and 5 dried apricots
  • Apple and a cheese stick
  • 1 cup carrots with 1.5 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 7 woven wheat crackers with 1 ounce of cheese

Second, plan.

Planning meals and snacks sets your mind on what foods you will be eating that day and builds in control of your food choices. If your days are long, get a bigger lunch bag and pack enough to cover your hunger all day . For example, pack a yogurt with granola for a morning snack; a turkey sandwich on wheat with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo, and a side of carrots for lunch; a banana and cheese stick for an afternoon snack; and maybe even a small chocolate or fun-size candy for an anticipated treat to perk up your day. Planning in a small treat can save you hundreds of calories from an impulsive splurge later.

Third, slow down.

This does not mean you have to stop everything to eat, but do pause long enough to set your food out and take a deep breath. If you can, take 5 minutes away from all distraction to focus on your food. With no computer or phone in your face, you will notice and taste your food better, which brings better meal satisfaction. If you spend many lunch hours in the car driving from one job to the next, make it a more satisfying experience. Listen to relaxing music, set your food out prior to driving, and take those few important breaths. Eat slowly and intentionally savoring your food even while on the road.

Feeling in control of hunger will bring both satisfaction and the peace of mind you have been looking for.

Niki Kubiak is a sports-certified registered dietitian, competitive runner and owner of Niki Kubiak Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss. She blogs regularly for livewellnebraska.com.

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