Making mindless eating work for you

I mentioned an article by Brian Wansink in a previous post, and after reading his article, I checked out his book, Slim by Design. The book is a great resource—he has useful suggestions for diverting the train wreck of bad choices that can sneak up on us when we’re not paying attention. I’ve been able to strategize my way through some of my own problems in this area—like moving the peanuts to a different shelf, out of my sight—but it hadn’t occurred to me that could use similar strategies to steer my family’s choices towards healthier options.

Following his advice in Slim by Design, I moved the least desirable snack things—cookies, crackers, bread—out of sight. (I had to leave the toaster where it is, because space constraints wouldn’t allow me to hide it.) I moved the fruit bowl into the main flight path through the kitchen, and made sure it was stocked with apples, oranges, and pears. (This was new since I usually prefer to keep them in the frig to maintain freshness.) I put yogurt—the lowest-sugar, lowest-fat yogurt I could find—on eye-level in the fridge, along with some good quality cheese sticks. I was already a believer in having celery, carrots, radishes, and red peppers washed, cut up, and available for snacking, but I added baby carrots because they are guaranteed to appeal to some other members of the household.

So the kitchen landscape now has some inviting and healthy choices in plain sight. The next bit of advice I followed was to institutionalize his half plate rule, which says you can have anything you want, but half the plate has to hold vegetables and fruits. Okay, you want a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch? Sure, just make sure to fill half the plate with vegetables and fruit. You want breakfast cereal? Okay, but you’re going to eat the same volume of fruit along with it.

There are a number of payoffs in this new approach. As a family, we are definitely more consistently getting good amounts of protein, fruit, and veg. But the unexpected thing I’m finding is that I can let go of the feeling that I need to intervene in others’ food choices—nagging is not what I want to do. No one really needs a load of my disapproval or a guilt-trip over food choices. This way, instead of nagging people to eat the way I want them to, I’m just quietly supplementing the available choices, and that is so much less stressful for the whole family, especially me.

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