It’s the time of year when we’re beginning to think about setting New Years Resolutions, and for many people, that means making attempts to live healthier. While some will go the workout route, others may look toward eating better as their new-year goal. Sometimes, though, where we eat is almost as important as what we eat. Believe it or not, experts say your eating environment can affect your ability to succeed or fail at eating healthy.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says a book called “Slim By Design” by food psychologist and behavioral economist Brian Wansink holds some valuable information about the environments in which we eat. “Wansink did extensive research on food behaviors and how they affect weight,” Tillman said. “His basic concept is that becoming slimmer by design works better than trying to slim down through willpower alone. He observed five eating environments, the first of which was the home. Wansink observed and studied people’s home kitchens, and photographed everything from the shelves, sink and dishes to lighting, tables and snacks. At the same time, he also recorded the homeowners’ weights, and found some very interesting correlations between the home eating environment and whether the homeowners were slim or overweight,” Tillman explained.
Tillman says the first tip toward eating better at home is to give your kitchen a makeover. “The first step is to make your kitchen less comfortable and more functional,” she said. “If you have a TV in the kitchen, take it out, and remove your comfy chairs. The more you hang out in the kitchen, the more likely you are to eat more,” she explained. “Also, try to make those tempting foods harder to see and harder to get to. You can do this by keeping your countertops clean and clear of foods such as cereal, chips, cookies and bread, as those typically are correlated to a higher weight. By contrast, you should try to store your healthier foods – such as fruits and vegetables – in more accessible, visible places. Try putting them in clear containers in either the front or middle of the fridge and pantry,” she explained. “The goal is to keep less-healthy items further from your sight,” she added.
Tillman says “Slim By Design” also suggests redesigning your so-called tablescape. “What Wansink means by ‘redesigning your tablescape’ is to adjust not only where you eat, but how you present food,” Tillman said. “Try eating only at a kitchen table or dining room table, and turn off the TV. This will help you focus on your meal and avoid mindless overindulgences. Also, try to pre-serve food onto plates from the stove or counter, rather than leaving large serving bowls on the table in front of you. The exceptions to this would be salads and vegetables, as you want to continue to keep those as visible as possible,” she explained. “Finally, try using smaller plates, bowls and glasses. This will help you better manage portion sizes,” she added.