September 27, 2012

What is on the Menu for a Healthy Kitchen?

By Nina Struss, RD, LDN
Hy-Vee Registered Dietician
(309) 787-0273

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of an open pantry or refrigerator, carefully inspecting its contents in search of something that seems appealing to eat? We make more than 200 food-related decisions per day, and are unaware of 90 percent of them. In a phenomenon called mindless eating, a term coined by psychologist and Cornell University consumer behavior professor Brian Wansink, research suggests that our eyes, rather than our stomachs, really do dictate how much we end up eating.

Eating less may be easier than you think! By making simple changes to your environment, you might be able to eat less without really thinking about it. So, what is on the menu for a healthy kitchen?

Good Things Come in Small Packages. We eat more from bigger packages. Instead of eating directly out of a package or box, put snacks in a separate dish or snack-size baggies, and leave the box in the kitchen. The smaller the serving container, the less you’ll serve yourself!

Buy Smaller Serving Dishes.
Size matters. We eat 72 percent of our calories from food in bowls, plates and glasses. Drink from tall, slender glasses instead of short, wide ones. You’ll pour yourself less! Did you know if you eat off a 12-inch dinner plate instead of a 10-inch one, you’re likely to eat about 22 percent more? Same applies for serving spoons. When you use a larger spoon to dish up the meal, you’re likely to consume up to 14.5 percent more than you would with a small spoon.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind. We crave food most when we see it. If you’re going to grab food that crosses your field of vision, a bowl of fruit or vegetables sitting in plain view will encourage you to grab healthy snacks instead. Even placing healthy options at eye level in the refrigerator and pantry will inspire eating mindfully.

See It Before You Eat It. Plate your food beforehand, and leave the serving dishes in the kitchen. When people pre-plate their food, they eat 14 percent less than when they take smaller amounts and go back for seconds.

Location, Location, Location. Be in the moment, and present while you are eating. If you eat in front of the television, in bed or standing in the kitchen, you may have an urge to eat simply from being in that location. Make it a family rule to limit eating to one or two rooms in the house. This will decrease triggers, and help you focus on enjoying your food without distractions.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Source: Wansink, B., 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam Books.