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Simple Strategies to Help Stop Overeating

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Research shows these strategies may keep you from overindulging.

If you find yourself overindulging throughout the day—second breakfast in the morning, ravenously snacking in the afternoon, a little too much dessert at night—help is on the way. We’ve combed through the latest research on ways to beat overeating around the clock. Find out what you can do throughout the day to keep overeating in check.

8 a.m.:

Fatten up your breakfast. One study found that participants who were given a higher-fat breakfast ate less at their next meal than those who ate a calorically equal, but lower-fat, breakfast. Get some healthy fats at breakfast by spreading avocado or peanut butter on your toast.

1 p.m.:

Focus on your food. Make a point to take note of how your lunch looks, smells and tastes. Women who did this ate less of their afternoon snack (by about 130 calories) than those who ate lunch while reading the newspaper and even those who just ate without any distraction, according to a study in Appetite. Researchers think that could be because the women paid more attention to what they were eating (both at lunch and at snack).

3 p.m.:

Pack a healthy snack. If you go too long between meals, you might be more prone to feast on high-calorie foods when you do eat, says one study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. In a small study, participants looked at photos of low-cal and high-cal foods (like ice cream sundaes) between 2 and 4 hours after eating lunch and had their brains scanned. Researchers found that participants were much more interested in the high-cal foods when their blood sugar levels were low versus normal. Satisfy afternoon hunger—and avoid those tempting but less-healthy options—by planning ahead.

6 p.m.:

Savor an appetizer. When participants drank a savory beverage 30 minutes before a meal, they ate less of high-fat savory foods, like potato chips and ham sandwiches, during the meal than when they started with a sweet or bland drink, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Study co-author Graham Finlayson, Ph.D., says sweet foods encourage eating, while savory foods may suppress hunger or enhance feelings of satiety. For proactive portion control, start your meal with a savory beverage or soup.

10 p.m.:

Get enough rest. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye each night—less than that might cause you to eat more. That’s because insufficient sleep can lower levels of leptin—a hormone that tells us when we’ve eaten enough—and also may increase ghrelin, a hormone that signals the body to eat, according to one study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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