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If food is the last thing on your mind when you eat, there could be a weight-gain surprise at the end of the year.

It seems when Americans sit down to eat, our minds are out to lunch. Whether it's the newspaper on the kitchen table, the morning news on TV, your co-workers you're dining with, or simply the world passing you by, food is the only thing we're not thinking about when we eat. The problem is, our absent-minded way of eating is starting to make a difference when we step on the scale -- and not in a good way.

"Regardless of how tuned in we believe we are to what we eat and how much we eat, we are really a nation of mindless eaters," says Brian Wansink, PhD, professor and director of Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

So if we're not focused on our food, what is it we're thinking about when we sit down for a meal? Do we give any thought at all to what's on our forks, or do we just open up and consume?

Experts give WebMD tips on how we can stop our absent-minded way of eating and start thinking before we open our mouths for a mindless feast.

Mindless Eating

"The average person during the course of an average day makes over 200 food-related decisions," says Wansink, author of Mindless Eating. "But if you ask someone what that number is, they say around 30."

That could mean that many of the choices we should be making regarding the food we eat are made for us when we're seduced by our environment.

"If we simply give people a larger plate size, in some cases, they'll end up eating 25%-50% more food just because the dish they're eating from is bigger," says Wansink. "Whether it's the time of day, who we are with, the lighting, the size of dish, the variety of food- -- all of these things end up influencing us as we make food choices."

While the brain that's between our ears doesn't seem to have a huge role on the food we put between our lips, that doesn't mean it's not having an impact on our waistlines.

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