Along with changing the quality of food you eat to support a healthy lifestyle, consider the changes you can make to your home environment. Here are some simple and easy actions to achieve your health goals. We gradually incorporated these habits. Each incremental step led us towards magnificent results. Here are our five simple tricks to eat less and be satisfied doing it.
1. Down size your plates and bowls.
One of the many research studies conducted by Cornell University Professor Brian Wansink proves that when we eat from smaller plates and bowls we end up serving and consuming less food. Professor Wansink specializes in eating behavior and is the author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
The experiments that Professor Wansink and his research team cook up seem like practical jokes played on unsuspecting participants. We all like to think we can’t be conned but Wansink shows us over and over again through many examples how the mind is easily tricked into eating more food.
This is an amusing and enlightening book to read, and we changed out our plates due to what we learned from reading it. We downsized from an 11” dinner plate to an 8½” plate. Now when we serve up our meals our plates look loaded with food.
2. Portion out servings before eating.
We don’t eat straight from large containers, bowls or bags. We portion out what we are going to eat and put the rest away. Measuring cups and spoons are great tools to have on hand in the kitchen. Besides using them for following recipes we also use them to stick to recommended serving sizes on nutrition labels.
We eat unlimited fresh fruits and vegetables, and limit the other types of whole foods we eat. Grains, seeds, nuts, oils, dark chocolate, and occasional chicken, fish and dairy are the foods we are most mindful of how much we eat. With this approach we determine how much we will consume ahead of time allowing our eyes and mouths the chance to savor and appreciate the meal.
Our meals take a bit longer to eat this way since we are not quickly shoveling it into our mouths, plus there's usually a lot of vegetables to chew. The bonus to this technique is it allows time for the stomach to signal the brain to stop eating once there is sufficient food for it to digest.
3. Invest in a food scale and use it.
We purchased a compact kitchen scale, about 7” in diameter and no more than 1½” high, for under $20. We always keep it on the kitchen counter so it is easily accessible. This digital scale displays in grams (g), kilograms (kg), pounds (lb) and ounces (oz) up to 7 pounds easily toggling between the display versions.
Our scale allows us to subtract out the weight of the container or serving dish (tare weight) so that we can get an exact weight of the food portion. Over time we have gotten good at estimating serving sizes because we have seen enough visual cues of serving sizes. We use the scale because we know that for as good as our estimates can be, our eyes will still want to play tricks on us.
Since we eat unsalted nuts and seeds, we depend on the scale to keep us within a normal consumption range. We found out early on in our health style conversion that seeds and nuts are nutrient dense but too much in a day’s time is more excess fat than the body needs. When it comes to dishing up fresh vegetables we do not weigh our servings, which is advice we picked up from following Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s nutritarian diet.
4. Turn off the TV when eating.
Marty grew up with a small TV in the kitchen. Coming home from elementary school for lunch each day gave him the opportunity to eat in front of the television. And he became very adept at mindless eating. Carrie grew up in a large family with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Her parents made dinnertime a chance for all of them to contribute to the conversation and talk about their day. As they got older the discussions became livelier and some of the best memories she has of growing up center around the dinner table. The television was never on during meals. This was a custom she grew up with and to this day continues in our home.
We enjoy the conversation and company of those around our table. When we are alone we try to avoid activities that takes our eyes away from what we are eating. Our minds likes the visual cues of seeing the food in front of us that we are about to eat. And they like to see the plate get emptied to help cue the stomach and brain that the meal is almost done.
Some folks like to mindlessly shovel food in their mouths while watching the TV screen. They will keep scooping food in and before they know it they have eaten too much. This is a conditioned reflex in that watching television has become associated with eating. We like to take the time to appreciate our food and we don't eat while watching the television. If you can break the habit and separate the two activities you may soon discover that you're consuming less food.
5. Out of sight out of mind.
This plays on several levels, whether it is how you stock your refrigerator and pantry or what you place in front of you to eat. When we open our refrigerator or pantry we want to see the foods that encourage us to continue eating healthy. Our refrigerator always has a display of clear containers filled with salad greens. Our fruit and vegetable crispers are well stocked with colorful fresh produce just waiting to be cleaned, cut up and enjoyed.
On our countertops we display the vegetables and fruits that don't need to be chilled. They act as a reminder to use them before they spoil and get us thinking about how we will prepare them in a future meal. Our pantry is well stocked with clear containers filled with various nuts and seeds.
We have banished processed food and junk food from our home because we consider it poison. Our bodies don't need junk food nor want the health problems that junk food causes. People eat junk food for the same reason rats eat rat poison. We keep food in the front and center position that nourishes us and keeps us healthy.
Turn these strategies into daily habits.
These five tips are habits that we adopted over a period of time. Changing our habits required a shift in our focus and what we deemed important. To make this a successful transition we tried to consider all the triggers that would cause us to overeat and we restocked our kitchen with the foods that keep us healthy.
We are always on the lookout for what the researchers have uncovered. They've shown the food industry is extremely savvy in creating and marketing high profit "food" that encourages overeating and chronic ill health. Consider using these strategies to practice mindful eating. By turning these strategies into daily habits, you will discover that you not only eat less, you eat well, and enjoy food more.
- Down size your plates and bowls.
- Portion out servings before eating.
- Invest in a food scale and use it.
- Turn off the TV when eating.
- Out of sight out of mind.
How do you encourage mindful eating? Submit your suggestions by clicking on 'COMMENTS' below and post your tip.
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think - This is a fun website filled with tips, articles, cartoons, and free stuff!
Small Plate Movement- Includes links to Cornell's Food and Brand Lab research published in various medical journals