Looking to lead a stronger, healthier life?
Sign up for our Wellness Wire newsletter for all sorts of nutrition, fitness, and wellness wisdom.

Now we’re in this together.
Thanks for subscribing and having us along on your health and wellness journey.

See all Healthline's newsletters »
Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

See all posts »

Mindless Eating

How often do you eat in the car? In front of the TV? Have you ever eaten a bag of chips or started a pint of ice cream, only to realize that you consumed the whole container?

"Mindless Eating" is the name for eating when you are not completely aware of the portion that you are eating. Dr. Brian Wansink at Cornell University has written the book called Mindless Eating and has a website to go with it, too.

I found two of the studies he did fascinating. In one study, he had people come in to eat soup. What the people didn't know was that some of the soup bowls were "bottomless" because they had a tube that slowly refilled the bowl as they ate. Other people had regular bowls of soup. Not only did people with the bottomless bowl eat more, but they ate 73% more soup than people with normal bowls of soup. AND...the bottomless bowl eaters didn't think they ate more. Lesson learned: We cannot rely just on our stomach to tell us when we are full...we also have to look at how much food we are eating.

Another study gave people popcorn when they came into a movie theater. Some were given a medium bucket and some were given an extra large bucket. Another difference was that some were given fresh popcorn and some were given 5 day old popcorn. Results: People at 45% more fresh popcorn from the extra large containers than the medium ones. Even when the popcorn was stale, they ate 34% more out of the extra large than the medium ones. Lesson learned: When we are given a larger container, we eat more....even if it doesn't even taste very good!

What can we do to eat more mindfully?
  • Eat from smaller plates
  • Take smaller portions (and go back for seconds if you still need them later)
  • Drink from tall narrow glasses instead of short and wide glasses (you will pour less)
  • "Clean your plate" is out and "Leave a few bites behind" is in
  • Be aware of when you are satisfied vs full or overfull

Photo is of the soup experiment and is courtesy of mindlesseating.org
  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No

About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.