Learn how to handle your hunger before it spirals out of control.

We’ve all done it: eaten waaay past the necessary limit. And not just on Thanksgiving, but on a regular basis. Let’s be real—food is yummy and delicious and it makes us feel good. That’s exactly why we overdo it sometimes. But even though food is such a vital part of our everyday life, it’s important to remember not to abuse it. Like the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing is bad for you.” So here are 6 tips to help you control your appetite:

1. Eat when you’re physically hungry.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but so often we eat mindlessly or out of boredom. Sometimes, we simply eat just to eat. Try to listen to your body and be aware of what it’s telling you. It really comes down to finding a happy medium. You don’t want to eat so much that you constantly feel stuffed, but you also don’t want to starve yourself and binge later. Experts say to spread out well-balanced meals by a few hours, and if you feel like you need something small in between, munch on a 150-calorie snack.

2. Eat slowly.
Take your time! The slower, the better. It can take anywhere from 10–30 minutes for your brain to even realize you’re full, so savor and enjoy every single bite. Some say to chew each bite 15–25 times, but if you’re like me, you might get bored counting every bite or you might simply lose count. So try chewing your food as thoroughly as possible, or until you reflexively swallow. It also helps to put your fork down in between bites!

3. Always eat breakfast.
I used to skip breakfast all the time until a couple of years ago. I made a change because I noticed on days that I didn’t eat breakfast, I felt sluggish, had less energy, and was more prone to binging out on something unhealthy later on in the day. If you struggle making time for breakfast, try planning ahead. Cut fruit the night before or keep instant oatmeal on hand. Just find a few breakfast options that you like and are healthy, quick, and easy.

4. Use a smaller plate.
When you use a huge plate, your brain sees a smaller serving of food. You may also feel like you need to cover the whole plate, which leads to overeating, more calories, and a wider waistline. But when you put the same serving on a smaller plate, your brain sees a larger portion of food, and you’re more likely to feel satisfied and stay away from dishing up more. If you don’t already have small plates, go get some!

5. Drink up.
Most of the time, we mistake thirst for hunger. Try drinking water if you feel hungry, then reevaluate how you feel 15 minutes later. Also, drink a full glass of water 5–10 minutes before each meal. Then, drink another glass of water with your meal, sipping in between bites. Filling your tummy up with water can keep you from shoving more food down.

6. Eat fiber-rich and protein-packed foods.
Both fiber and protein take more time for your body to process than, for example, a candy bar. That means they leave you feeling satisfied for longer. So try eating real, whole foods most of the time, and you’ll get less calories for more nutrients and bigger food portions. Stay away from foods that give you a lot of calories and not a lot of nutrients, like candy, chips, pasta, and soda.

Well, there you have it! Let us know if any of these tips helped you, and if you have any tips of your own, leave ‘em in the comments!

Happy eating!

Julie Tukuafu