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Mindful or Mindless Eating - The Choice is Yours

The difference between mindful and mindless eating and how each affect us.

Nashville, Ark. – The recent winter weather had everyone stuck inside for a few days. Did you find yourself reaching for a bag of chips and sitting in front of the TV to watch a movie to pass the time? By the time, the movie was over how many chips were left in the bag? Or did you find yourself constantly going to cabinet to snack even when you weren’t hungry? Most of us can relate.

Not only being stuck at home, but the stress of what will happen (water freezing, road conditions, etc.), being depressed since the sun was not shining, and not exercising can cause many people to eat more or what we call mindless eating. However, mindless eating can happen anytime.

Studies show that the average person makes about 250 decisions about food each day – breakfast or no breakfast? Cereal or a breakfast bar? Part of it or all of it? Eating at the breakfast table or in the car? Most of these 250 plus food decisions we cannot really explain. They just happen. In contrast to mindless eating, mindful eating is about paying attention to what we eat and how much we eat.

Instead of making blind food choices or eating whatever is convenient, mindful eating allows us to appreciate all that food has to offer our senses and the nourishment it provides. When we pay attention to what we eat, we tend to eat less and choose foods that are higher in nutrition. Mindless eating happens when we are distracted from focusing on the food we are eating. This is where mindful eating can help.

Mindful eating is not necessarily a weight loss technique, but it can help to eliminate foods and habits that can lead to obesity. Obesity leads to other health problems including heart disease. In a study conducted by Duke University, mindful eating showed improvement in people enjoying their food more and struggling less with controlling their diet.

Some basic rules for how to practice mindful eating include:

  • Do a belly check before you eat. Take 5 deep breaths. Do you have the sensation of being hungry? How hungry are you? What are you hungry for? Are you bored or stressed?
  • Check out your food. What does your food look like? Notice the colors. Does it look appealing? What does it smell like? Where does it come from? Is it unprocessed or highly processed? Is this the food you really want? Use your senses as you analyze the food you choose to eat.
  • Slow down when eating to allow yourself time to enjoy your food and be able to tell when your body has had enough. Try putting your fork or spoon down between bites, pausing and taking a breath between bites, and chewing your food completely.
  • Tap into your hunger by evaluating how hungry you are and re-evaluate your hunger as you eat to prevent overeating. Give yourself permission to stop or to continue eating based on your hunger and fullness cues. Not on how much is left on your plate.
  • Savor your food. Take time to enjoy the textures and flavors of the food. It takes about 20 minutes for our body to realize when it is full.
  • Be fully present when you eat. Eating is supposed to provide our bodies with the nutrients we need and alleviate the feeling of hunger. The goal of eating is to feel better after we have eaten.

Mindful eating does not just happen. It takes time. Be patient with the process and positive results will follow.

Finally, being mindful does not mean giving up all the foods we enjoy such as desserts, chips, and pizza. It means that by controlling how much we choose to eat and eating all foods in moderation, we gain a healthy relationship with food and make more healthy choices.

For more information on eating healthy, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You can also check out these websites, or The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week - Buttermilk Scones

Scones are easy to make, taste great, and sound impressive. They are basically a biscuit with added fruit, nuts, etc. Use this recipe to make different variations by adding different fruits, fresh, frozen, or dried, sprinkling cinnamon prior to baking, or trying whole wheat flour. Get creative!

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup raisins

  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted (1/4 cup)

  • 2/3 cup buttermilk

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.

  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  3. Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well.

  4. Add raisins or other fruits and mix lightly.

  5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and buttermilk.

  6. Add liquid ingredients to flour mixture; mix gently.

  7. Spoon dough into 9 equal mounds on a greased baking sheet.

  8. Bake until brown, 18 or 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Best when eaten the same day you bake them.

  9. Yield: 9 scones.

  1. Nutrition information per scone: Calories 217, Fat 6g, Sodium 211 mg, Carbohydrates 39g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 4 g


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 to all eligible persons 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.