Moderation: the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior. From the Latin verb “moderare” meaning “to control”. In practical terms; 1-2 cookies instead of a row of cookies, 1 handful of chips instead of half a bag!

Why is moderation so difficult for us? As a Registered Dietitian over the past 35 years, I can’t count the number of times I have advised moderation. When a patient or customer would ask, “what about candy, pie, chips, or fill in the blank…”, I would often advise anything can fit if moderated.

Here are some suggestions I have found to be very useful. I hope they work for you!

-Practice “mindfulness” when you eat. Multitasking has become a way of life for most of us. Most of the time we aren’t even aware of it. As I am writing this, I have clothes in the dryer, the dishwasher is washing my dinner dishes, and I am mentally planning what I have to do to get ready for my evening activity. Multitasking can work in some situations, but not when eating.

When you eat, really focus on the food you are eating; the flavor, texture and the satisfaction you get from the food. Turn off the distractions. You will not only enjoy your food more, but will be satisfied with less.

-Avoid extreme hunger. Incorporate a balance of carbohydrate for energy, and protein and healthy fat for the satisfaction they provide, into your meals and snacks, every 3-4 hours. A classic set up for anything but moderation is being famished. The time 4:00PM and after spells disaster for many.

Picture this. You ate lunch at 11:00. You stop at the store on your way home from work to pick up ingredients for dinner. All of a sudden, a host of high calorie foods make their way into your cart! And once they’re home… forget moderation.

-Avoid all or nothing thinking. This is so easy to fall into. You are on a roll with eating more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains at meals and snacks. Until…grandma’s birthday party of pizza and birthday cake or that pot luck at school. Yikes, then what? I really blew it so I might as well give up. Not so fast! We are all going to deviate from time to time. The key is, get right back to your plan the next meal. Not the next week, or the next month!

Moderation is possible, just practice, practice, practice.