No one is perfect—not even the healthiest person in the world is immune from going on a calorie binge every once in a while. The real problem arises when supersizing our meals becomes a regular habit. Between large meals at restaurants, king size candy bars and free soda refills, temptations to overeat are constantly dangling in front of us. But—how do we ignore these temptations and stay on track? After all, skipping those extra calories boils down to a little extra effort and planning but, the solution is surprisingly simple. Here are five tips to help keep you on track with your eating pretty plan!
1. Order first when eating out. Imagine yourself at a restaurant with five friends that just ordered double cheeseburgers and fries. It’s your turn to order. What are the chances of you ordering sautéed vegetables and brown rice? The odds are definitely stacked against you because your friends have already set the tone for the table. I like to refer to this as the “I’ll have what she’s having” effect. Next time you are out to eat with friends, order first and set a healthy tone for your dinner party.
2. Eat at home (as much as possible). Eating out with friends every once in a while is great but try not to make it a routine. Americans in general are consuming more meals away from home than ever which may not be conducive to a healthy lifestyle. A 2010 study showed that eating one meal away from home every week translates to two extra pounds per year. The study also demonstrated that individuals tend to consume less fruits and vegetables when eating out as well. Eating at home, however serves a double bonus. Save a few bucks while feeling good in your jeans—think of it as a long-term investment!
3. Avoid automated eating. Are you eating just to eat or because you are ACTUALLY hungry? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, and even harder to determine what you’re really fueling. When we eat while studying or watching TV, reaching into the chip bag becomes an automated, mindless action. Think about eating popcorn at the movie theater. If the popcorn bowl is sitting in your lap, you are more likely to continuously shovel it into your mouth until the bowl is empty or the movie is over, whichever happens first. Minimizing distractions increases mindful eating and makes it easier to resist overeating patterns.
4. Rethink your plate size. The quantity of food eaten at each meal may be affected by something as simple as plate size. A 2004 study in the Journal Obesity found that bigger plates can cause portion distortion and tempt us to pile on more food to avoid the plate looking sparse.
Big plates are similar to big closets—they make us feel like we need more than we actually do. Try switching to smaller plates, like a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, and an appropriate serving size may not seem as small as it did on the big plate.
5. Store leftovers. In the midst of trying to balance the extracurriculars of every day life, people are less willing to sit down for well thoughts out meals. However, with a little bit of planning at the beginning of the week, it is possible to eat healthy meals without sacrificing much time. On a day that you aren’t as busy, try preparing a few healthy dishes that you can eat throughout the week. Portion the leftovers into individual serving containers that are easy to grab on the go. A great example is breakfast burritos. Try making your own, wrap them individually,and store five in the freezer. Throughout the week, just pop them in the microwave and start the day with a healthy and delicious breakfast!
The take away message is simple: being more aware of your food environment can help moderate your food intake. Pay attention to where you are eating, distractions around you, and how the food is presented. Next time you find yourself in a situation that you are tempted to overeat, use these five tips to help control your portions and keep your plate beautiful!
Brigid Titgemeier, BA, and MS Student in Public Health Nutrition assisted with this article
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