UACES Facebook Are You Mindless Eating?
skip to main content

Are You Mindless Eating?

Have you noticed that you are eating more while being stuck at home due to Covid-19 and social distancing? Why is this happening?

Nashville, Ark. – Have you noticed that you are eating more while being stuck at home due to Covid-19 and social distancing? I have heard from more than one person they need to stop working from home and return to work in order to get back on track. Why is this happening? Stress and boredom do play a role, but there may be more to it.

            Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University, suggests it may be “mindless eating”, a phrase he developed. Wansink’s research indicated that subtle factors – a container’s size or shape or an item’s wording on a menu or label, for example, influence people, causing them to mindlessly overeat, eating more than a normal serving size.

            According to Wansink’s research, a person makes hundreds of food-related decisions each day and is unaware of nearly all of them. These decisions include basic questions such as having breakfast or skipping it and finishing something or saving it for later. Mindless eating can lead you to eat more than you think you’re eating.

            Wansink goes on to say mindless eaters fall into many “diet danger zones” which lead to overeating. These tendencies can be curbed by making small changes. Here are some of the common danger zones and solutions for overcoming them:

  • The Meal Stuffer: Stuffers eat primarily during mealtimes but eat too much. They often eat quickly and feel uncomfortably full after they finish. They often take second helpings and consider themselves to have “healthy appetites”.

Mindful Solutions: Use smaller plates and taller glasses to reduce portions. Slow down the eating pace. Pre-plate food and leave a few bites on the plate. Adopt the half-plate rule, where half the plate is vegetables. Eat fruit for dessert.

  • The Snack Grazer: Grazers are all about convenience and snack on whatever food is available. This may be the common practice of many people right now. Snacking can be a nervous habit – something to do while watching TV, reading, or playing cards. Snack Grazers rarely pass up the candy dish.

Mindful Solutions: Put snacks away. Place them in the back of the pantry, fridge, or freezer so you don’t see them every time you open the door. Place a bowl of fruit on the counter, so you do see it. Studies show people are more likely to choose a food item that is easily accessible. Eat only at the table. Put the candy dish away.

  • The Restaurant Indulger: While we can’t eat at the restaurant right now, we can order out and pick up curbside or drive through. Keep in mind that most restaurant servings may be two to three times larger than the recommended amount.

Mindful Solutions: Divide the amount in half and plan on eating part of the meal now and saving the rest for lunch the next day. Drink water instead of ordering a drink.

  • The Desktop/Dashboard Diner: If you are working from home, you may find yourself eating at the workstation. Or do you eat while driving?

Mindful Solutions: Avoid having food next to where you are working. Turn off the computer when it is lunch time or stop the car while eating. Chew gum to stave off boredom or stress. Replace sodas with water.

When we have easy access to food, we are tempted to eat it. Making food more visible makes people think about it when they see it, increasing snacking and adding a couple hundred calories each day. That may not sound like much but adding barely a hundred calories a day can lead to over 10 pounds of extra weight in a year.

Pay attention to your body when eating and stop when you are no longer hungry, not until you are full. Start with small changes. By making just three 100-calorie reductions in eating each day, you will lose weight. Write down those reductions and keep a list. Accountability plays a huge role in weight reduction.

Become a mindful eater, not a mindless eater. For more information on eating healthy, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week

This recipe is a great to make with your family. They taste great! I like to use white chocolate chips and craisins. Do not overbake them!

Oatmeal Cookies


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup applesauce

2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)

1 egg

1 ½ cups oats

½ cup coconut, dried fruit, chopped nuts or white chocolate chips, optional


  1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  2. Combine sugar, applesauce, oil, and egg in a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the oats and optional ingredients, if desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls on the greased cookie sheet. Make sure they are 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand on the baking sheet for 4 minutes. Then remove onto wire racks to cool.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 30 cookies. Serving size: 1 cookie.


Nutritional Information Per Serving: Calories 60, Total Fat 1.5g (Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g), Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 40mg, Total Carbohydrate 12g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Total Sugars 6g), Protein 1g, Vitamin D 0mcg, Calcium 16mg, Iron 0mg, Potassium 27mg.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.