This Unhealthy Snacking Habit Is Making You Gain Weight

Maybe you already know that eating mindfully—paying close attention to the types and quantities of food you put in your body—is key to maintaining a healthy weight. But here’s the problem with mindless eating: it’s mindless. You may not even realize how much you’re doing it. A new study has found that multitasking on screens makes you way less aware of how much you’re eating.

The study, conducted by researchers from Endicott College and Michigan State University, looked at how much participants snacked while they were looking at screens versus how much they said they snacked. Across the board, participants under-reported how much they’d eaten. Plus, the more engaging the activity, the more unaware participants were of how much they were eating. Those in the group that were watching TV, texting, online shopping had even worse estimates of how much they’d eaten than those who were watching TV, texting, online reading. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)

If, when it comes to weight loss, your issue is the amount of food you’re eating, it’s time to cut the screen-time snacking and start eating with intention. If, however, your issue is that you have trouble eating the right foods—nutrient-rich snacks that will keep you satisfied—the good news is that study participants also under-reported how much healthy food they’d eaten. In fact, they under-reported healthy snacks even more than unhealthy snacks, so you can basically distract yourself into eating better.

“Doctors and nutritionists have long held that it’s a bad idea to idly watch TV or pay attention to one’s phone while eating unhealthy snacks,” study co-author Anna McAlister, Ph.D. tells The Beet. “But what if we start to encourage similar [snacking] habits, but substitute foods rich in nutrients? We could then tip the scales in favor of a healthy diet.”

For more on how to snack with intention, check out the expert-recommended Only Way To Snack and Lose Weight.

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