Which would be easier: putting the candy stash in a sealed container on the top shelf of the cupboard, or leaving it out and allowing yourself just one piece a day? Some experts argue that the former is a better strategy for weight control. In one Cornell University study, 200 participants from the National Mindless Eating Challenge were given tips from three categories on how to change their eating environment, alter their eating patterns and change the food they ate. The scientists found that the volunteers who were given savvy environmental tips, like moving the candy dish, using smaller plates, or rearranging the cupboards, stuck to their healthy programs an average of two additional days per month. And the tips turned out to be pretty effective – over a three-month period, the subjects lost one to two pounds per month per tip! Another Cornell study looked at whether serving foods from the kitchen counter, instead of at the table, knocked down the number of times a person refilled his or her plate. Researchers found that when serving dishes were kept off the table, people ate significantly less - about 20 percent fewer calories.
When it comes to weight control simply eating less is effective, but it doesn’t ensure the healthiest diet. So the best strategy is to make less healthy foods more difficult to eat and good-for-you foods easy to grab. Here are some simple ways to do just that:
Eat Less Tips:
Freeze leftover baked goods. I recently had a birthday and my hubby ordered a gorgeous chocolate cake from my favorite vegan bakery. After we enjoyed our slices, I cut and wrapped the eight remaining pieces and stashed them in the freezer. Now I won’t be tempted to pick every time I open the fridge, and if I want to budget a slice into my day I have to pre-plan it. This strategy works great for everything from cookies to brownies and muffins, or even fresh bread.
Rearrange your cupboards. In my apartment, my hubby’s cupboards are on the left of the microwave, mine on the right. He’s much bigger than I am and not nearly as health conscious, so his stash usually includes some goodies I like, but rarely eat. But separate cupboards means I don’t have to see or move his potato chips to grab my whole-grain crackers. If you live alone, you can use the same trick. Just be sure to store splurge foods in a cupboard that you rarely need to open, or on the very top or bottom shelf. Out of sight out of mind really does hold true.
Eat More Tips:
Keep healthy snack foods with you at all times. I always, always, always have a Larabar stashed in my bag (I love them because they taste decadent but they’re made from fruit and nuts with no added sweeteners) and I can’t tell you how many times it has saved me from snacking on something far less healthy when I’m running errands or have a super busy day.
Keep nutritious foods in sight and within arm’s reach. Some of my clients have told me that one of the best tips I ever gave them was to pre-pop popcorn, pour it in a bowl and leave it out on the countertop so it’s the first thing they see when they walk into the kitchen. If you’re starving after work or you’re a little tipsy after happy hour you’ll be much more likely to dive into the popcorn (which counts as a whole grain) than a bag of chips or cookies. Other eye-catching tips include: Keep a beautiful fruit bowl on the counter (especially fruits that require minimal work such as apples and plums), slice fruits and veggies and store them in see-through containers so they jump out at you when you open the fridge and leave the blender out and put the toaster away if you’d like to start your day with a smoothie instead of a bagel.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.