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Be aware of your food environment -- plate size, food packages and distractions -- in order to achieve your goals for healthy eating.
We all complain of not having enough time -- even for sitting down to a quiet meal. Instead, we often find ourselves eating in the car, at the computer or while working. These distractions create an environment for making poor food choices, such as eating too much at one time and munching on unhealthy snacks high in sugar, saturated fat and salt.
Frequently, we eat mindlessly, unaware of what and how much we consume, which contributes to our growing waistbands, as well as the onset of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Keep track of what and how much you eat by turning off your smart phone, TV and computer while you eat.
"You can become mindful of your food environment and set yourself on the right path for making healthy eating decisions," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of "Mindless Eating." The trick is to arrange your environment so that it supports healthier eating. Here are some top tips for more mindful and better eating.
MINDFUL EATING TIPS
1. Make a dish swap.
Replace your 12-inch plate with a smaller dinner plate. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people tend to over-serve themselves on larger plates; the bigger your dinnerware, the bigger the portion you dish for yourself. A two-inch difference in plate diameter -- from 12 inches to 10 inches -- results in 22 percent fewer calories served. If a typical dinner has 800 calories, a smaller plate would lead to a weight loss of around 18 pounds per year for the average adult.
2. Make a color change.
Changing the color of your dishes can change consumption, too. The same study found that a serving dish that offered higher contrast, for example pasta with red marinara sauce served on a white plate vs. a red plate, reduced how much people served themselves by 21 percent. The higher contrast between the plate and the food makes the serving look larger.
3. Create workplace wellness.
According to Cornell Research, most people lose weight during weekdays and gain weight on weekends. And individuals who show the largest decrease in weight between Monday and Friday are more likely to maintain a healthy weight over time. The take-home message? For a healthy overall weight, set up a nutritious environment at work to help you eat better Monday through Friday. For example, replace candy with nutritious snacks like carrots, celery or toasted walnuts.
4. Slow down and incorporate your senses.
Instead of shoveling food into your mouth, slow it down. It takes time for your brain to register when you have had enough to eat. Barbara Stuckey, food developer and author of "Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Food Tastes Good," believes that we need to incorporate all of our senses into the eating experience. Slowing down and tasting, seeing, touching and actually, yes, listening to your food can make a more enjoyable eating experience and help prevent overeating.
5. Turn it off.
Avoid reading and turn off your smart phone, television and computer while you eat, as these activities can distract you from paying attention to what and how much you eat. Instead, savor your food in order to lower food consumption and increase the pleasure of your meal.
6. Reduce your package and serving size.
The bigger the package you pour from, the more you will eat. In fact, research shows that bigger package size can lead to 20 to 30 percent more food consumption. Repackage your jumbo boxes into smaller bags or containers, and serve the food in smaller dishes.
7. Try new silverware.
Choose a smaller spoon or eat with chopsticks for portion control. Even nutrition experts given a larger serving spoon served themselves 57 percent more ice cream than those given a smaller spoon. Consider trading in your fork for chopsticks; it will force you to take smaller bites and eat slower.
8. Add vegetables and fruits.
For lunch or dinner, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits to increase your consumption of health-protective nutrients and fiber, which can help you feel satisfied with fewer calories.
9. Don't put bowls on the table.
Instead of placing food in serving bowls on the table, dish up your plate in the kitchen.
"Because guys generally eat faster than females, this is great for males," says Wansink. In fact, men eat 29 percent less if bowls stay on the kitchen counter.
10. Serve salad first.
People tend to eat more of whatever they start with, and if given a choice we tend to go for meat or potatoes first. So starting with a vegetable salad creates a win-win situation.
(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.)