Could Visual Cues be the Answer to Shrinking Your Waistline?
Many people gauge how much to eat by how much food is placed in front of them. For example, when participants in a research study were served soup in a bowl that automatically refilled from a hidden tube in the bottom, they consumed 73% more soup than participants who ate out of a regular bowl.1
Interestingly, most participants in the bottomless bowl group believed that they barely consumed more soup than the participants in the normal bowl group– which wasn’t the case, obviously! We may believe that we are able to gauge how much to eat by how full we are feeling, but visual cues have a lot more to do with our eating behavior than you may think! To prevent overeating, try these tips:
- 9-inch plate. Plate sizes have grown along with our waist size. This may seem irrelevant, but what you see greatly influences how much you eat. If you use smaller plates, the food servings appear larger and better satisfy your psychological hunger. To take advantage of this fact, restock your kitchen with 9-inch dinner plates to get yourself used to eating on a smaller plate. This way, when you eat out, you will easily be able to recognize the oversized plates and portion sizes.
- When you go BIG go small. If you’re craving a lot of food, choose items that are high in volume and low in calories, like fruit, vegetables, popcorn, and broth-based soups. These foods tend to be loaded with water and/or fiber, which will keep you full much longer than foods that are low in volume and high in calories.
- Pack it up. If you decide to eat at the cafeteria or a restaurant while at work, have them serve half of the meal, and pack the other half in a to-go box to eat later. Remember, your goal is to be comfortably full, not stuffed! By packing up half before it hits the tables, you’ll be less likely to “pick” at the leftovers when you’re no longer hungry.
- Stay hydrated the right way. It’s best to avoid drinking your calories (juices, sodas, some fruity smoothies) since these beverages add calories without fullness. If you do decide to buy a drink other than water or unsweetened tea, get the smallest size offered. It doesn’t matter that the next size up only costs 30 more cents, the extra calories will only do you harm. This is your health we are talking about!
- Use the ChooseMyPlate.gov principles. Remember the classic food pyramid? It has been replaced by a new tool called My Plate. My Plate teaches you how to build a healthy plate at each meal, instead of focusing on how many servings of each food group to eat each day. To follow the My Plate principles, fill one half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with whole grains, and one quarter with lean protein. Serve with a glass of water or reduced-fat milk if you’re aren’t including low-fat cheese or yogurt in your meals. If you build your plates this way at each meal, you’ll be well on your way to improving your diet!
- Use the 80-20 rule. If you feel overwhelmed about eating healthy, simply follow the 80-20 rule. Choose healthy, whole foods 80% of the time, and enjoy treats 20% of the time. If you eat three meals a day, this means that four meals each week can be less than perfect. That’s roughly one meal every other day! How much less-daunting does that feel? Rather than giving into overwhelm, start making changes, and don’t fret about the days that are less than perfect. All changes, no matter how small, add up!
Being aware of how external cues affect your eating habits can help you avoid the typical traps! Use the strategies from this article to help keep yourself in check. Keep in mind, your eating habits not only impact your weight, but your blood sugar as well! Eating more than you intended can throw you off of your diabetic meal plan, leading to high blood sugar levels. Equip yourself with as many strategies and tips as you can to take control of your health!
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