Put down your silverware. After each mouthful of food, lay your fork or spoon on your plate. Swallow completely before your next bite. (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / December 13, 2006)

How you eat — not just what you eat — can help control weight and keep your digestive tract healthier, dietitians say:

Sit down. Don't eat while walking around, working, driving or watching television. Distractions make you more likely to overeat.

Take small bites. One good measure: aim for half-inch squares when cutting chewier foods such as meat or fish.

Drink between bites. Don't use liquids to "wash down" big chunks of food. Not only is it a choking hazard, you put more strain on your digestive system. Take small sips of water after each bite to slow your pace.

Chew well. Your food should feel like mush before you swallow. That gives digestive enzymes in your saliva a chance to begin breaking down food before it reaches your stomach.

"Chew" semi-liquid foods too. Don't just gulp down yogurt, soup and other items with similar consistency. Again, some time in your mouth will ease the burden on your lower digestive system.

Put down your silverware. After each mouthful of food, lay your fork or spoon on your plate. Swallow completely before your next bite.

Don't copy your companions. The pace at which fellow diners are eating doesn't matter — worry about your own plate.

Don't talk with your mouth full. You'll swallow more air, which can lead to burping and digestive discomfort.

Wait before getting seconds. Your brain generally needs 15 to 20 minutes to receive a signal from your stomach that you are full. If you eat until you're stuffed, you've eaten too much.

Eat when you're hungry. You don't have to follow the typical 9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. meal schedule. You may do better with more frequent but smaller meals.

— Alison Johnson, Special to Tribune Newspapers