Each of us makes over 200 subconscious decisions about what and how much to eat every single day. Which do you prefer, coffee or tea? Select the supersize or medium size? Skip the cookie or eat the cookie? According to researchers at Cornell University, these unconscious food decisions are driven more by our "eating environment" and less by our deliberate choices. In other words, subtle cues in your environment that range from the size of your plate to the distance between you and that candy dish all play a role in nudging you to overeat and make it more difficult to lose weight. Even those of us with the best intentions will find it difficult to lose weight when food is visible, plentiful and accessible.
There is no need to despair. You are literally just an arm's length away from making it easier to eat healthy and lose weight. Follow these 5 tips below to rearrange your "food environment" and start losing weight today!
1. REACH FOR SMALLER PLATES, CUPS, AND CEREAL BOWLS. We eat about 92 percent of the food on our plate. Make it easier to control your portions and your calorie intake by serving your food on a smaller plate or into a smaller bowl. Pour beverages into a taller, thinner cup instead of a shorter, wider cup. You will think you are getting more food, but you are not.
2. STORE HEALTHY AND WHOLESOME FOODS WITHIN REACH. Replace the cookie/candy/junk-food jar that currently resides on your kitchen counter with a bowl of fresh, hardy fruits - i.e., clementine, oranges, apples, bananas, etc. Keep pre-prepped and cut fresh veggies at eye-level in your refrigerator.
3. KEEP A SMALL STASH OF HEALTHY AND CONVENIENT STAPLES ON HAND. Stock your cabinet and refrigerator with healthy ingredients to make cooking at home a breeze. Try frozen veggies/fruits and pre-packaged salads to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Keep a supply of whole-grain cereals, baking potatoes and dried spices on hand. Healthy protein staples to have on hand include low-sodium canned beans, eggs, boneless/skinless chicken breasts, nut butter, hummus and Greek yogurt. For work, pack a small bag of almonds and eat them as your afternoon snack.
4. MAKE UNHEALTHY FOOD INCONVENIENT. Move that bag of candy to the basement or tuck it into a cabinet you cannot easily reach. Wrap unhealthy leftovers - i.e. that piece of decadent pie - in aluminum foil and store it in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator. If you work with someone who has a candy dish on his/her desk, walk a different route so you can avoid the temptation.
5. PRE-PORTION YOUR FAVORITE SNACK FOODS RATHER THAN EATING DIRECTLY OUT OF A LARGE BAG/BOX. Pre-portioning your snack into a smaller serving size will help you eat less. You will be more aware of how much you have eaten. Purchase single-serve snacks, less than 1 ounce or pre-portion your favorite snacks into a small baggie or bowl.
To learn more about how to control your weight through healthy eating, activities and sleep during 2016, visit the Army's Performance Triad at http://armymedicine.mil/Pages/performance-triad.aspx.