Easy fixes for mindless habits with food

There’s so much advice out there for the millions of us who want to lose weight, or simply avoid gaining weight. Much of it is the not-useful rehash of the assumption that all calories are created equal, and anyone can lose weight by starving and exercising. I don’t pay any attention to those articles.

But I do love to read things that do help, with useful—and easy—suggestions that I can use right now to help me avoid some of the pitfalls of not paying attention to what I’m doing with food. The January 10 issue of New Scientist has a great article by Brian Wansink that does just that. Here are some of his tips—no willpower required.

We probably all know that when we use a smaller plate, we eat less, but did you know that putting food on a plate that’s a different color—think white food on a red plate, for example—makes us eat less? This was news to me.

This next one did not surprise me, due to my own experience with a particular jar of peanuts that was on eye level in my kitchen for a brief time. When food is in plain sight in the kitchen, people—especially women—eat more. And women who kept boxes of breakfast cereal on the counter weighted more than women who didn’t.

It always surprises me that breakfast cereal is marketed as a healthy food, since a cursory look at the ingredients sends me back to my steel cut oats every time. But it is marketed as healthy, and the marketing is targeting women—maybe that’s one reason why men were not affected by the boxes on the counter while women were.

Another simple meal tip that affects everyone is that serving food from the table results in everyone eating more than serving from the counter. He also had some tips for eating out: sit at a well-lit table, preferable by a window, and avoid the bar.

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