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Incidental snacking: How to beat it

Found yourself suddenly at the bottom of a bag of chips without realising how you got there? Try the 'five bite' rule.

Most of us, when we're in subconscious mode, tend to go from the enjoyment of the first mouthful to 'oh my god, I need to lie flat' and the ensuing guilty aftermath.

The 'five bite' rule works on five principles and ultimately comes down to self awareness, portion control and planning:

  1. First, eat what you enjoy and do not deprive yourself when you know you are going to love it. Be honest about how much you will love it and don't tempt yourself with sub-standard treats.

  2. Second, never buy anything that you are not prepared to eat. If it's in arms reach it's ripe for the incidental picking.

  3. Third, never upsize anything and always opt for the smaller, more intense versions of everything. Family packs are for families, not individuals. Don't kid yourself; you will not save some for later.

  4. Fourth, if the portion is too big then cut it down to size before you even start, and push the plate away. Do not under any circumstances stand near a buffet table at a party.

  5. Fifth, and this is the gem, eat only 5 mouthfuls – the first two you will enjoy, the second two will satisfy you, and the fifth will give you a chance to say goodbye to the treat before guilt comes a knocking at your door.

It's quite the revelation to think that we may need to occasionally ask ourselves whether we're enjoying that cheesecake, or to think of a handful of crisps as real food, but we do.

The body – for all its marvels – is unsophisticated in this respect. It treats all calories the same and gives us no diversion for temporary insanity when eating.

It's just like our Mums used to say: it pays to engage your brain before you put your mouth into gear.