Mealtime Screentime Could Mean More Calories

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm one of those people who always have to be busy doing something. In fact, if I'm not doing multiple things at once I don't feel very efficient. I know that I should sit down for meals without distraction, focusing on just eating and nothing else. That way it's easier to pick up on hunger cues and know when I'm full and need to stop. But in reality, that's not what I do. One of the things I'm most guilty of doing is eating in front of the computer. Could that end up making me eat more? A new study says "yes".

The small study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, put 44 people into two different groups. The first group ate lunch while playing solitaire on the computer, while the second ate the same meal with no distractions. "Thirty minutes after the meal, both groups took a cookie "taste test," in which they could sample as many of the sweet treats as they wanted. They were also asked to recall all nine items they'd eaten at lunch, and the order in which the foods were served. On average, the researchers found, the computer group downed roughly 250 calories' worth of cookies, while their counterparts ate only half as much. In addition, the computer group had more difficulty remembering the order in which their lunchtime fare was served, and typically reported feeling less full after lunch."

Sometimes at the end of the day and have a hard time recalling what I ate at each meal. That's because I'm so distracted when I eat. But on the days where I have quiet time with my kids to sit and enjoy my food, I find that I actually end up eating less. When you really focus on what you're eating, it's easier to feel more mentally and physically satisfied.

Check out 9 Simple Tricks to Eat Less, the benefits when you Stop and Chew Your Dinner and other strategies to help Overcome Overeating.

Do you eat meals in front of the computer? If so, have you tried breaking that habit to see if it affects how much you end up eating each day?

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I eat lunch during the week in front of my computer at week while I Spark. Report
very good article! Everyday at work, I eat my lunch in front of the computer. I just enjoy eating and surfing the net on my free time. I'll probably be more mindful and not do that as much. Report
I live alone and rarely cook, so I pretty much eat a fixed amount when I eat. Occasionally I eat at the computer, but not usually, and I don't watch TV. I have a severely impaired sense of smell which means I can't taste most of what I eat except for sweet, sour, salty and bitter, so eating is a challenge, regardless of where I do it. Report
I have learned the hard way to measure the food I eat in front of the computer. In some ways because I am so engaged with what I am doing it is worse than eating in front of the television. Report
Yes, I do eat in front of a screen, but I have a measured amount so I am not tempted to eat mindlessly. Report
I do eat in front of the computer. I have my meals and snacks porpotioned out so I do not get into mindless eating.. Report
I eat my breakfast, lunch and snacks at work in front of the computer. I bring my meals from home so it's already portioned out and we don't have a vending machine. Dinner is with the family, tv and computers off. Report
I can't just sit and eat. I have to have something in front of me. I live alone and while I'm a brilliant conversationalist ;) I get bored talking to myself. I also have an old and very slow computer. Just checking my email can take over an hour. If I don't eat at the computer, I'd never get anything else done. Report
This sort of study doesn't really affect me. I don't mindlessly eat as "many as I want" as I sit there and watch TV. I dole out the proper serving size and I take mindful bites, while enjoying my favorite show while I chew. Works just fine for me!

Also, I have tried eating without "distraction" and I actually end up eating MORE. My mind wanders and I'm so bored that I realize I'm just shoving food in my mouth long after I am satisifed. Report
I tend to do this at work. I have found that if I have to work through my lunch, I consume my planned calories for lunch when I bring my lunch from home. This way, I am not able to add anything extra to my meal. If you don't have it, you can't mindlessly eat it! Report
Sure, this definitely makes sense. When a person is in front of the computer or TV or something else, they are distracted. When that person is distracted, they probably start mindlessly eating. I know that happens to me !! Report
I always eat more in front of ANY screen whether it's the TV, computer, or if I'm reading a book. Spark has helped me be more aware of that mindless eating. Report
I think this is like most things, every person and situation is different. I can see that you may eat a whole sack of popcorn or bag of chips if you don't portion out your snacks or make healthier choices first. Eating while doing other tasks has never been a problem for me if I portion out the amount first. This holds true with eating out also by picking out the best choices and deciding before you eat where the stopping point is and not mindlessly eating it all. Mindless eating is the problem. Report
I just read this as I ate my breakfast! I agree that I pay less attention to my food but if I'm NOT busy doing something else, I tend to want to snack more and more and more to keep my hands busy. It's definitely a double edged sword. My favorite thing to do is read a book and eat because it satisfies so many senses at once. Maybe it's not the best plan ever, but I enjoy it. Report
This makes perfect sense, however, like you, Jen, I like to multitask. I usually eat breakfast and lunch at the computer (these are portioned meals, too). I have an afternoon snack I usually eat at the table while reading or doing homework with my kids. And at supper I usually don't have any distractions, since I hope to have conversations with my family. I keep to pretty much the same foods most days, and the same portions, so whether I eat by the computer or not, I usually eat the same.

I suppose I might enjoy my food more if I just sat down and ate it, but I am so easily distracted by other people's eating noises and my own thoughts about what I need to get done that day, I think I might enjoy my meals less, unless I could lock myself away somewhere and eat all alone in silence (which isn't feasible). Report
I do eat in front of the computer and I also have given up snacking and use portion control for my meals so for now it has not been a problem Report
This study always bothers me because I do eat in front of the computer or TV and it causes me to eat less because I eat much more slowly. I am normally a very fast eater, and it seems that no matter what I try, I can make myself slow down only for a few minutes and then i revert. When I am watching or working while I eat, I take much more time in between mouthfuls and find that I rarely finish what is on my plate because I am full. Report
i totally agree.. i notice when im eating in front of a tv i tend to eat more and go or seconds depending on how interesting is the show. Recently i tried eating at the table and i noticed that i get full faster than eating in front of the tv. Also my portions be a lot smaller. Report
I avoid eating and computer or TV's it does make a difference for me! Report
I have to admit, I AM a screentime eater. I ate my breakfast while catching up on Spark. I don't feel too bad about this, because I have a pre-portioned breakfast that I don't think I could ever binge on.... but when it comes to dinner, I need to get a lot better about not eating in front of a screen. I should just ask my husband to set the table every day so that it's not covered in mail and books, and I'll have no excuses to sit at the computer to eat!! Report
I'm usually so busy at work I eat my lunch at my desk and continue working. Report
Seems the problem is 2-fold, both eating more because you don't even realize you are eating more (the mindless eating part), and also not getting the full sensory experience and resulting satisfaction from just concentrating on what you're eating. It's very interesting!

and ps..of course I do it, lol!! Report
I stopped eating at the computer when I spilled a full bowl of milk and cereal over my keyboard. That was an $80 mistake I don't care to repeat. I don't even like to drink liquids around my computer. If I do it must be in a bottle with a lid not a cup or glass. I also rarely eat in front of the TV anymore. Report
I DONT eat while watching TV, reading Newspaper or when checking my cell Report
I don't eat meals in front of the computer. I do snack while on the computer but that is it. Report
I'm certainly guilty of distracted eating, although it's more commonly a newspaper or book. It's on my "things I want to change" list. Report
always such good topics...thanks for another Report
Yes I do eat I front of the computer and it doesn't cause me to eat more. I always have my portions prepared so it really isn't a problem for me. Sometimes when I have an extremely heavy work load I eat my lunch there while I work. Didn't do it today though. Report
In Judith Beck PhD's "The BECK Diet Solution" one of her main rules is to eat sitting down, doing nothing else. I remember Dr. Roger Gould in "Shrink Yourself" talking about how fat people think about food all day long, except when they are actually eating it. Watching TV, driving, etc. isn't the time to be eating. Report
This didn't surprise me at all! Although I was guilty of this today, I counted out my cashews, as usual, as well as my serving of blackberries. Ideally, we should all be sitting down, appreciating our food as we eat it. But realistically, that probably won't happen. So instead I just make sure to keep my snacks measured, and once I finished them, I pop a few pieces of sugar-free gum! Report
This is really true. My nutritionist works routinely with cancer patients who have suppressed appetites after chemo treatments and the first thing they do to get them to eat MORE is put them in front of a tv or computer. Distraction = consumption of more calories. Too bad I ALWAYS eat in front of either the boob tube or the internet myself :( Trying to break the habit, but when you eat alone it's nice to have the "company". Report
measuring out portions is really helpful in my weight loss process. Think about this....If you sit down with a bag of whatever u snack while watching t.v., you are eating without even thinking. Before you know it the whole bag is gone. How many servings were in that entire bag that you just consumed. Probably more than one serving. That will add up and quickly Report
I usually avoid eating while working or playing at my computer, primarily because I worry about food particles getting into my keyboard (yuck). While at work, I don't like to have my office smelling like food when I'm done with lunch, so I usually eat next door in the lunch room. It also gives me a chance to socialize since I'm isolated the rest of the time. I am guilty of watching TV while eating, either while sitting on the couch or at my dining room table. Report
I totally eat in front of the computer (especially when I'm playing my online game) or in front of the TV.
I am trying to measure out my portions though, and be aware of what I'm eating. Report
I don't have a problem eating in front of the computer, but I sure do eat in front of the t.v.! I've always heard that it is "bad" to do that, but I really appreciate reading some of the research that proves it. It is REALLY hard for me to just sit and be mindful of eating, but I'm definitely going to try. This is all about changing old habits and embracing a healthy new life, right? Report
I'm single. To me as long as I measure out what I am eating, leave the rest in the kitchen than I have no problem multi-tasking. Since I stick to my nutrition tracker like glue, this isn't a problem for me. ~ Donna Report
I do NOT eat in front of the computer or TV. Yet, I like to be busy too and meal times at home are my one sit down time besides my allotted SP time at the computer,so that is when I grab a good book and read. So during my breakfasts & lunches I prepare my meal but will be reading a book as I eat. Then its up and moving once again. Report
This is totally me too.. So glad I'm measuring out portions again :) Report
i am such a grazer i will not eat much durnig the day but once i sit to watch tv at night i want to eat all night Report
I snacked on choc. chex mix straight out of the bag as I read this. Next time I will measure out a portion size!! Report
Of course I eat more calories when I multitask my meals! That's WHY I do it! As a person who has suffered from eating disorders, getting myself to sit down and complete a meal is always a struggle. If I didn't have the distraction of the TV or computer, my calories totals for the day would be woefully unhealthy! Report
Totally guilty of multitasking while eating. I actually can't think of a time in the past 10 years where I'm not eating while watching TV, on the computer, or talking with friends. I suppose I need to make more of an effort to avoid this. Challenge accepted! Thanks for the info! Report
It's similar to eating in front of the TV. I am guilty of it but doing much less than I used to thanks to SP. Report
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