Photo by Justin Singh

Whatever you call it — grazing, munching, mindless eating — we all occasionally eat when we’re not really hungry. But what’s really happening when we suddenly feel the urge to eat? When we actually need food, the liver notices sugar levels are starting to dip and sends a signal to the hypothalamus. But the more we eat, the more difficult it is for the brain to discern real hunger.

The list of mental triggers that can lead to accidental eating is never ending. For starters, eating off of real dishes (as opposed to napkins and paper plates) tells the brain it’s mealtime and to eat up! Thirst can also be confused for hunger, since those hunger cramps can be caused by dehydration, too.

The Takeaway: Hunger’s not always what it seems. Overeating can mess with the brain’s ability to know when you’re really hungry, as can thirst.

Veg It Up

When hunger’s really calling, try this lentil-based mushroom and olive veggie burger for a healthy and delicious meat alternative.

Fun Fact

During World War II, Americans were encouraged to eat lentils to help the wartime economy.