You are what you eat, they say. But what about where you eat? Can your own kitchen have an impact on your eating habits and waistline?
In a word: Yes. Brian Wansink, Ph.D—director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab and author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think"—says there are simple ways to equip your kitchen for healthy eating habits, backed by science to boot. Here’s the skinny.
Buy Smaller Serving Dishes.
Size matters. You may love those oversized plates that sit in your kitchen cupboards—you handpicked them from the Pottery Barn catalog yourself, after all—but the truth is, they may be causing you to consume more calories than you otherwise would. If you eat off a 12-inch dinner plate instead of a 10-inch one, you’re likely to eat about 22 percent more, according to Wansink’s research, so swap those big plates out for smaller ones. How’s that for a foolproof diet? Same goes for other serving dishes. Studies show that a whopping 72 percent of our calories come from food that we eat from bowls, plates and glasses—so replace jumbo kitchenware, stat.
Say Yes to Smaller Spoons.
Serving spoons—same applies. When you use a larger spoon to dish up your mashed potatoes, macaroni, (insert whatever makes your mouth water here), you’re likely to consume up to 14.5 percent more than you would with a small spoon. Your guests won’t even notice the change! But feel free to jumbo-size those salad tongs. The bigger the tongs, the easier it is for people to grab large amounts of healthy greens.
Keep Food Hidden From View.
It might seem obvious, but food follows the old cardinal rule: Out of sight, out of mind. Keeping food tucked away in the refrigerator and pantry can, you know, hugely decrease your desire to consume them like a hungry dinosaur. Who hasn’t been there? Understandably, we crave food most when we see it, just like we start salivating like a Pavlovian dog when someone merely mentions a hot-fudge sundae. The trick? Turn this concept on its head. 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.
Play Hard to Get with Your Groceries.
There’s hiding food from view, and then there’s tucking the most tempting foods away like buried treasure—a concept Dr. Wansink calls “de-conveniencing.” Warning: This method should be reserved for only the most tempting and devilish foods and baked goods, otherwise you’re just making life difficult. When removing that chocolate cake from the counter just isn’t enough, try sticking it in the very back of the fridge or cupboard… wrapped in double tin foil, inside a Tupperwear container built like Fort Knox. Odds are, you won’t bother, and will return to Dancing With The Stars immediately.
Turn off the Boob Tube.
Speaking of television, it’s fine to have it on while you’re cooking, but always turn it off when it’s time to eat. When asked for his numero-uno piece of healthy eating advice—the Big Kahuna, if he could pick just one—Dr. Wansink says without hesitation: “Having the TV on during meals.” It’s a one-way ticket to Binge-ville! In one of his studies, people who watched 60 minutes of television ate 28 percent more than those watching 30 minutes. TV dinners might be a snuggly tradition in your home, but they’re not doing your waistline any favors.
Let There Be Light.
Hey you, in the slippers! Stop right there. Before you tip-toe into the kitchen during late hours again, you might want to know this: You’re likely to overeat in a kitchen that’s dark or dimly light, mostly because soft lighting calms you and makes you more disinhibited. Sure, you want a relaxing, candle-lit vibe when you’re out at a restaurant—but create that experience in your kitchen, and you’re just going to feel more comfortable and eat more! Your kitchen certainly doesn’t have to mimic those fluorescent dressing rooms at the Gap, but adequate lighting will help you to be more aware of what you’re doing in there.
All in all, the bottom line about your kitchen is this: Don’t overdo it. There’s no need for portion sizes that could feed a small country, jars of candy or dessert in plain view, or restaurant-like mood lightning that makes you want to let loose. Repeat: A kitchen is a kitchen—get in, get out, get on with your day. Keep things simple and you’re likely to see healthier eating habits, and a shrinking waistline, in no time!
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