We have ALL been there. Whether it’s the holiday feasts at the end of the year or a special dinner out, before you know what happened, you overeat and get up from the table feeling bloated and tired. Sometimes it’s the abundance of delicious food that triggers it, but it can also be related to the people, the decorations, and the ambiance of those festivities.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days. But it doesn’t always stop there.  Sometimes we overeat on regular days, at regular meals or ALL THE TIME.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals:

Tip #1: Start with some water.

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food, it’s too easy to fill a plate, grab some samples with your bare hands, and dive into the food, esp. while you are cooking.

But did you know that it’s possible to confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Set yourself goals for drinking water throughout the day, including a glass ~30 minutes before the meal. This keeps the stomach acid and digestive enzymes that process your food into fuel functioning optimally and from getting diluted by a large glass of water while eating.

That said, some studies have shown that drinking a glass of water or two before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.  And this super-simple tip can even help with weight loss and improved energy.

Drinking water will start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for a feast. And, getting enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating mindfully.

Perhaps you’ve heard of mindfulness. Or you may have even tried to practice it in your life a bit. But have you thought about what it means in relation to, or tried to apply it to, your eating habits?

Mindfulness practices keep you present in the moment and can help you avoid overeating by focusing your attention on your meal. In addition, they have the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savoring every mouthful.  Pay attention to all your senses. Notice and appreciate the sight, smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.  When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of a TV, smartphone, tablet or book), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites while you focus on chewing.

Tip #3:  Start with the veggies.

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.  But don’t start there.

Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your vegetables.

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytonutrients. And they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller.  They’re “satiating”.  And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

How do you keep from overeating?