How to Eat in Moderation

Most people could benefit from a diet based in moderation, both in the types and quantities of food they consume. Besides etiquette considerations, the benefits of eating in moderation include weight loss, chronic disease management, and the promotion of general health. Although some people may struggle with general quantity concerns, it is also possible that only certain foods or food groups trigger an individual to overeat. Binging or overeating may be as much of a challenge for some thin people as it can be for those who are overweight or gaining weight. Regardless of an individual’s weight, it can be a dangerous health habit. By identifying personal pitfalls in an individual’s diet and addressing problem behaviors or challenges, it is possible to combat immoderate eating behaviors and begin a diet based in temperance, balance, and moderation. Those with diabetes, weight or obesity issues, high cholesterol, self-esteem troubles, or a simple sweet tooth can often benefit by moderating their diets in some or all areas.


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    Eat breakfast and get plenty of sleep.
    • Studies have shown that well-rested individuals and people who take the time to eat breakfast are less likely to indulge or overeat for the remainder of the day, sometimes saving hundreds of calories over their famished or tired counterparts. Thinking about it logically, consider that the body needs to get energy from somewhere. If you don’t fuel it with sleep and rest when it feels drained, it will look for sources of fuel elsewhere. That’s when overeating can enter the scene. The difficulty is that there are different types of fuel for a reason; when the body is physically hungry due to a lack of food, it benefits from more food, but if the body is sleep-deprived and gets food as a replacement, food stores overflow and turn into excess fat and other health issue.
    • Going to bed earlier may also prevent overeating by opportunistic or habitual eaters, who reach for entire bags of potato chips or pints of ice cream when staying up late.
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    Keep a food diary for at least a week, and track all food and drinks, including snacks.
    • Take note of the quantity or volume, the type, and even the time each food is consumed. For instance, write “large order of fries, two double cheeseburgers, large regular soda, noon” or “whole cinnamon raisin bagel with two tablespoons cream cheese, 1 small apple, medium latte with caramel sauce, 8am.”
    • Note binge triggers or particular food weaknesses where moderation is neglected, such as consuming several handfuls of potato chips at 11 o’clock every evening, or a tendency to eat a second brownie after trying a first for dessert.
    • Many studies have documented the power of food journals for estimating the quantity and quality of food and calories consumed in an average day or week.
    • Be sure to include weekends, restaurant meals, quick snacks, smoothies and shakes, desserts, and other calorie sources of any type.
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    Use the food journal to identify calorie hogs, empty calories, and hidden calories.
    • Sometimes just having a written log of the amount and types of food consumed in a given day or week can be enough of a wake-up call for people to reduce their consumption. For others, it may be easier to target a reduction in quantity for specific food groups or times of day.
    • Simple sugars, condiments, fatty snacks, desserts, and foods that trigger additional eating can be a great place to start.
    • Setting small but significant goals–and achieving them–can help mitigate the risk of overeating and even provide the confidence and willpower to take more drastic dietary restrictions if necessary.
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    Substitute quality for quantity. Some foods do not satisfy hunger cues because they confuse the brain or contain little nutritional value.
    • Add a healthy protein or fat source to small snacks or regular meals.
    • If a feeling of hunger persists 15 minutes after eating, try snacking on foods that carry very few calories despite their volume, such as a few handfuls of popcorn, a small bag of carrot and celery sticks, a cup of vegetable soup, or two rice cakes.
    • When meals and snacks are built around vital nutrients and filling but healthy ingredients, it is easier to be satisfied with modest quantities.
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    Learn to measure appropriate portions. Many people are astonished to learn that a recommended serving size of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards, and the recommended serving size for peanut butter is about the size of a golf ball.
    • By dishing up appropriate portions at home and by requesting half of a restaurant meal to be packaged for leftovers in advance, many people can avoid overeating simply by limiting amounts before the food is on the plate.
    • With less food on the plate at the beginning, most people’s tendency to finish their serving will still satisfy their hunger without loading on extra calories from oversized portions.
    • If one plateful is not enough, opt for second helpings only of the healthiest dishes, such as vegetables or whole grains.
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    Allow (some) treats. For some people, attempts to abruptly or totally remove unhealthy items or desserts can lead to eventual binging or overeating. Instead, start by allowing one sweet item or treat each day, in moderation.
    • Limit portions to only a few bites. Waiting a few minutes between each bite to savor and appreciate the food. This may help reduce the urge to finish the entire item while still satisfying a sweet or salty craving.
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    Make a meal plan and stick to it.
    • Planning meals and portion sizes ahead of time can help reduce overeating or mindless munching.
    • Charting out ingredients for each meal and snack in advance also makes it easier to build a balanced, nutritional diet.
    • Plan to keep filling but healthy snacks on hand and avoid buying trigger foods, calorie-dense foods, and high-calorie drinks.


  • To further deter unnecessary snacking or trigger cravings, try drinking a glass of water and working on an activity for ten minutes before eating anything. If the hunger or craving hasn’t subsided, the extra water may make it easier to eat only a small portion of the desired food or to replace it with a healthier substitute.
  • Drinks may be a significant source of calories that carry little nutritional value but contribute considerably to a day’s overall calorie intake. Keep in mind that even fruit smoothies, diet milkshakes, sports drinks, and protein drinks can be high in calories or added sugars. In particular, heavy soda, juice, or alcohol drinkers should consider moderating their drink intake or substituting water, diet, or low-calorie options for their normal choices.
  • Many health websites offer free meal plans, sample menus, or diet guides for people attempting to moderate their food intake. Try a sample plan or customize it to include favorite foods or flavors.


  • In some cases, overeating is more than just a health risk. Compulsive over-eaters, binge eaters, and those suffering from bulimia should seek guidance from a health or counseling professional. Conversely, excessive restriction of calorie intake may be indicative of anorexia or another eating disorder, and should also be brought to the attention of a health professional.

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Categories: Eating Techniques