Does zombie eating sound like a new diet rich in brains? It may be scarier than that. It’s what happens when you combine screen time with meals and snacks, and it could be undermining your health and social life.
You may have happy memories watching Saturday morning cartoons while enjoying a bowl of your favorite cereal. The trouble starts when it becomes a regular habit.
A recent survey by the research group OnePoll found that 91% of Americans watch TV while eating, and 49% do so regularly. When you add in phones and other devices, the average adult has only 5 screen-free meals a week.
Meanwhile, studies show that you’re more likely to underestimate how much you’re eating when the TV is on. You may also choose convenient junk foods instead of preparing a balanced meal.
Do you want to eat healthier and have more time to spend with family, friends, and coworkers?
Try these suggestions for limiting screen time and eating mindfully.
- Log your time. Use an app or paper journal to figure out how often you eat in front of a screen or how much time you spend online. It may motivate you to make positive changes.
- Stay active. Finding enriching offline activities you enjoy makes it easier to cut down on excessive social media or other time drains. Maybe you want to play team sports or visit art museums.
- Create offline zones. Ban screens from your family dinner table and bedrooms. Charge your phones in the living room.
- Delete some apps. Make it more difficult to access sites where you think you’re spending too much time. You may also want to disable automatic notifications to cut down on temptation.
- Ask your pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatricians has adjusted its recommendations for an era when children are surrounded by screens. They suggest avoiding most screen media for children younger than 18 months, limiting screen use to an hour for children to 2 to 5, and setting consistent limits for children 6 and older.
- Sign a contract. Some families find it helpful to put their technology policies in writing. Limiting your own screen time will make you a more effective role model for your kids.
- Slow down. Eating too fast often leads to overeating. Relax and slow your pace. Chew your food thoroughly and put your fork down between bites. You may even want to try chopsticks.
- Use a table. The average American eats only 3 meals a week at their kitchen table, according to the same OnePoll study. Enjoy more family dinners and lunches with coworkers instead of lying on the couch or sitting at your desk.
- Focus on presentation. Food that looks beautiful tastes more delicious. Compose salads and soups with a blend of colors. Create pretty table settings even when you eat alone.
- Define your portions. Cut down on serving sizes by using plates and bowls. Otherwise, you might consume the whole package before you know it.
- Savor your food. Eating mindfully can help you to enjoy your food more as you eat less. Involve all your senses. Notice colors, textures, and tastes. Experiment with wholesome ingredients and healthy recipes.
- Calculate your hunger. Being mindful also means eating when you’re hungry rather than seeking entertainment or comfort. Listen to your body so you can understand why you’re eating and notice when you feel full.
- Appreciate silence. It’s fun to share meals with others but dining alone can be satisfying too. Practice spending quiet time with a grilled cheese sandwich or an ice cream cone.
For a healthier and happier life, stop eating like the walking dead. Limit the time you spend online and pay attention to your food. Your mind and body will be glad you did!