It’s what happens when you’re bored or hungry or both. Or stressed or emotional. Or all of the above.
Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab has been studying mindless eating as well as healthy eating. He has discovered small ways that we can tweak our kitchen environments to cut down on mindless eating and transform it into healthier eating habits. Some of his suggestions that are delineated in his latest book Slim by Design, which he discussed recently on American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table” include:
- Change out the china. Dr. Wansink discovered that people eat less when their dishes contrast in color with what they are eating (especially brown or white carbohydrates). In addition, consider using smaller plates. When the plates are smaller, it takes less food to fill them up and also seconds seem less enticing.
- Stow the (less healthy) snacks. Maybe you really want to have no snacks in the house. But if you have family members who need or want snacks and don’t have problems with overeating, then you can’t entirely ban the snacks from your home. If that is the case, keep all of your snacksin one cabinet and make it a bit of a “stretch” to get to the snacks, either by placing them up high or down low, but definitely not front and center, which is reserved for…
- Put the fruit and veggies front and center. It really makes a difference if the low-fat options are accessible and visible. Don’t hide the vegetables in the refrigerator bins. Instead, immediately after you purchase your fruit and vegetables, wash and cut up at least a portion of them and store the pieces in clear containers. Rearrange your refrigerator so that the front of the middle shelf is filled with tasty, healthy treats, ready to be immediately eaten with no preparation necessary.
- Make the clear choice for healthy leftovers. There are lots of ways to store leftovers: in foil, in clear disposable containers, and in their original cooking implements. Wansink recommends that the healthier the leftover, the more transparent the container should be. So, leftover cheesecake shouldn’t be nearly as visible as leftover cut up carrots.
- Ditch the extra dishes. Dr. Wansink recommends serving from the counter or the stove and not bringing a large serving dish to the table. By creating one more step to get seconds, we actually can find ourselves just taking one serving, whereas bringing the entire bowl of pasta to the table encourages overeating. Understandably, this rule is designed for family eating only; clearly, it could be untenable with company.
The most important thing to remember as you try to eat more mindfully is that small habits can bring about big changes. Put some of these into practice and see if they make it easier for you to reach for something healthier.