Last Updated on March 20, 2018 by Jen Kristensen
Around the world, obesity remains one of the most daunting health problems that mankind faces. This is especially true in the US, where obesity rates remain dangerously high. Every state in the country now has an obesity rate that’s higher than 20%, and 3 states (Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi) have obesity rates higher than 35%.
Of course, diet plans abound and they’re especially easy to find online. But it’s not as easy for people to stick to their diets. Many blame their lack of self-control and discipline for their failure.
But several research studies have also shown that small and easy changes to dietary practices can result in huge gains in the fight against obesity. With just a few simple tweaks in how we eat, we can make smarter and healthier decisions that won’t take too much effort and willpower.
Here are some changes you should start with:
- Make healthy foods more visible. It’s hard to deny the power of advertising, and in fact it’s one of the reasons why unhealthy fast food dishes remain popular. We are inundated with advertising images of cal0rie-rich unhealthy foods. We see them on posters, TV commercials, and in ads on newspapers, magazines, and websites.
So what should you do? You can use the same tricks to promote healthy foods as well. You can start by storing your fruits and vegetables into more visible and more accessible places. The reason for this is that you’re more likely to reach for the first food items you see when you open the refrigerator door or kitchen cabinet, so that means fruits and vegetables should be the first things you see.
A study has confirmed this theory. When people moved their produce items from their crisper drawer to the top shelf of their refrigerators, they boosted their consumption fruits and vegetables tremendously. These people who made their fruits and veggies more visible, and who stored their unhealthy food items away in opaque containers, consumed almost 3 times as much healthy food as before.
- Eat only at the dining table. Don’t eat in front of the TV. One study showed that eating as a family in the kitchen table or dining room showed a link with having a lower body mass index. On the other hand, eating in front of the TV is linked with a higher BMI.
One suggested reason for this is that the dining table enables people to focus on their means, while the TV provides an unhealthy distraction. Another study showed that distracted people tend to consume 10% more calories on average, and they also tend to eat more on subsequent meals.
- Use the right size for your plates. The Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University has found that the size of the plates correlates to the amount of food you eat, that’s because the mind computes the amount of food eaten in relation to the plate.
In other words, when you use a small plate and fill it up with food, you’re more likely to feel more satisfied than when you eat that same amount of food using a bigger plate. Your mind thinks that you ate a smaller portion because the food didn’t fill up the whole plate.
You can use this to your advantage. You can use the smaller plates for the less healthy food items you eat, such as your desserts. Then you can trot out the larger plates and fill them up with your vegetables and salads, so you can serve more and eat more healthy food items.
- Consume more colors. Or more accurately, eat lots of different fruits and vegetables in different colors. It’s not the green ones you should focus on. Yellow fruits like bananas are healthy too, and other fruits and veggies can be purple or red.
What’s surprising is that research has found that the colors themselves provide some health benefits of their own. It’s not just the nutrients provided by the fruits and veggies. The colors of these items can really perk up a bland-looking meal, and when you see a colorful dish in front of you then you enjoy it more and feel more satisfied.
- Boost the visual appeal of dishes. The use of colors actually emphasizes the fact that people find attractive-looking food more delicious. The Culinary Institute of America proved this in a study they conducted, when they found that diners who were served the same chicken dish two nights in a row reported greater enjoyment when the dish was arranged in an artful manner.
So if you’re going to serve salad, make sure it looks great. It’s not just a play on colors. You can arrange it in an interesting way, for example. Or you can even present the ingredients in different sizes. You can cut the cherry tomatoes in half, julienne an apple, and shred the kale so that they’re all in different sizes.