How can I avoid overeating at a meal?

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
Enjoying regular meals and snacks (every 3-5 hours) throughout the day will keep your blood sugar even and allow you to not overindulge at a specific meal.  Also, keep the ChooseMyPlate visual in mind when eating to promote healthy eating.  Savor and cherish the flavor of foods--it does take ~20 minutes for your brain to recognize satisfaction from food, if we eat in a hurry, we could end up overeating.
Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Of course we all like to eat and sometimes we wind up overeating. In general, overeating results because is a lack of connection with our bodies and what physical hunger is.  We need to be mindful of not only what we are eating, but also WHY we are eating.

1) Eating out of boredom?. When you are bored, you look for any stimulation including food!  Boredom does not actually trigger your hunger, it triggers the habit. Next time you're bored, head for a walk instead of the fridge.

2) Stressed-out snacker? . Many of us eat more when we are stressed, and again, take a 10-minute walk to help you relax.

3) Social eating?  Socializing tends to make you eat more... you will be offered many delicious food making it hard to control yourself to reasonable portions. What you can do is have a several large glasses of water or a small fruit serving before you go out, so your stomach feels less empty.

4) Fast-food? . Eating faster increased how much you eat….so eat slowly. Sip water between bites. Take smaller portions Chew thoroughly before swallowing. Chewing more sends signals to the brain that help you become less hungry.

5) Eat Foods that fill you up?  Stay away from foods that give you a lot of calories but little volume, such as soft drinks,  potato chips, candy bars, and white bread.. The higher the fiber, protein, and water content of a food, the more likely it is to be satisfying in your stomach. 

6) Use your salad plate! Plate sizes in the US have grown along with our waist sizes. Using a smaller plate can give your brain the sense that the portion is appropriate. I recommend filling half of the plate with vegetables, a quarter of the plate with protein and the final quarter with carbs. No refills!

7) Distracted eater?  Don't eat while watching TV, a sporting event or any other distraction… will not be focused on the food so you will tend to overeat even if you are already full.

8) Drink water. Most people will lose weight with this simple trick. Drink a full 8 oz glass of water before every meal. You will be full much quicker and have added no calories to your day!

For more information, visit our website at, and use our FREE online weight loss and wellness tool at!

Every meal is an opportunity, and because we now eat in so many settings and situations, the best advice is to prepare before-hand.

  1. Don’t Leave Home Without It: Studies have shown that being hungry leads to decision fatigue, causing people to make the easy (AKA wrong) ones. Have a healthy but filling snack before you go out. Try almonds (but see #2 below) or popcorn (see #3).
  2. Don’t Double-Dip: Exercise your math mind and pack your snacks and foods in portion size containers. Avoid eating from large containers or, before you finish reading this answer, you could end up eating the Econo-Bag size of cheese curls. If you are bringing a snack of almonds, don’t grab the whole bag. Put 12-15 almonds in a container before you leave for work.
  3. Banish Bland: Put the butter down and pick up the chili powder. Or onion powder. Or cumin. Spices have almost no calories while fats are packed with 10 calories per gram (that is the weight of two small paper clips!) But beware of premade spice blends… many contain salt.
  4. Start with a salad: A simple green salad has fiber that will fill you up before you start indulging on that steak au poivre. Don’t ruin your salad with cheese, creamy dressings, or other fatty accoutrements.
  5. Don’t drink your calories: That mocha-frappa-whip creama-ccino has a lot of calories. And it won’t fill you up. Same with alcohol. Alcohol will lower your inhibitions and can make you prone to poor decisions (in more ways than one). Drink alcohol in moderation.
  6. Relativity Theory: Use a smaller plate. An empty plate makes you feel cheated and obligated to eat the whole dish. A smaller plate looks fuller and automatically controls portions. This is particularly important at buffets. Use the salad plate, not the entrée plate.
  7. Sharing is Caring: Unless you are at a Michelin 3-star restaurant, there is nothing wrong with splitting an entrée with a friend. Or having an appetizer as an entrée. Appetizers are usually better anyway.
  8. Gourmet Lunch: Have your waitress doggy bag half of your dinner before it even arrives. It will probably be a better lunch than anything you would put together yourself at 6am.
  9. Don’t Eat and Drive (or work, or watch TV, or…): People tend to over eat when distracted or in groups. Do not eat in your car. Or at your desk. Or in front of your TV. And watch yourself around large groups.
  10. Hara Hachi Bu: That is the Japanese saying that you should eat until you are 80% full. Not 100% full. Or 140% full. But 80% full.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If you have a little of the right kinds of fat right before you eat, you can trick your hormonal system by sending the signal to your brain that you're full. If you eat a little fat 20 minutes before your meal (70 calories or so of fat in the form of 6 walnuts, 12 almonds, or 20 peanuts), you'll stimulate production of CCK, a peptide in the gastrointestinal tract that signals fullness and which will both communicate with your brain and slow your stomach from emptying to keep you feeling full.

That way, you'll be able to sit down for a meal and eat for pleasure, not for hunger—which is one way to ensure you'll eat less. The average person is finished eating well before their satiety signals kick in—thus counteracting any possibility that their hormones can help them. For the same reason, you should eat slowly. If you down your food faster than a mini-vac, you won't allow your satiety hormones time to kick in.
YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

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YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

For the first time in our history, scientists are uncovering astounding medical evidence about dieting -- and why so many of us struggle with our weight and the size of our waists. Now researchers...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.