Whether you’re prepping for an Ironman or training yourself to avoid the doughnut platter in the breakroom, it’s likely that you’re keen to incorporate healthier choices into your diet.
For many of us, that might mean being more mindful about overconsumption — or attempting to love vegetables with far greater passion than ever before. No matter what your goals, you might want to consider incorporating some of these quirky strategies, which have all been shown to change how you perceive meals and snack time.
CHOOSE DISHWARE THAT’S A DIFFERENT COLOR THAN YOUR FOOD
There’s been quite a bit of research done on how the color and size of serving dishes, plates and bowls influence consumption. For example, choosing a larger plate tends to make you load up on more food than a smaller plate, a phenomenon known as the Delboeuf illusion.
Color contrast can also be a factor, according to a recent study. Simply put, the more your food blends into your plates, the more you’ll eat. Even the color of your tablecloth comes into play, since consumption can also be higher if there’s lower contrast. In other words, white tablecloth plus white plate can mean you’ll load your plate with more mashed potatoes than you’d planned.
Opt instead for smaller dishes or bowls — and if you have dishware in different colors, go for contrast as you’re serving your meal.
TIDY UP YOUR KITCHEN
Although it’s helpful to have some items on the counter — especially those you eat all the time — you’re better off stashing food in the cupboards if you want more control over your eating habits.
According to a recent study, cluttered kitchens can lead to over-snacking, especially among people who are stressed. Researchers had one group of women wait in a messy, noisy kitchen and another group waited in an organized, quiet one. Those in the chaotic environment ate twice as many cookies compared with the other group.
“It seems to lead people to think, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?’ ”sways lead author Lenny Vartanian, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
PAY ATTENTION WHILE YOU’RE EATING
For many people, eating is something that’s done as a secondary task while they’re scrolling through Instagram, watching television, working at a desk or zipping from one errand to another.
But just as distracted driving negatively impacts your driving ability, distracted eating can sabotage your satiety signals, says Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa. “When you’re eating in front of the TV, computer, phone, or when driving, it takes much longer to ‘hear’ your body signal that it’s full,” she says.
One way to level up the mindfulness is to take a reset type of moment just before eating, Gomer suggests. Similar to how you’d keep coming back to your breath during meditation, gently guide your awareness back to eating. “Focusing allows you to just settle in and enjoy your food,” she says.
LOVE YOUR WORKOUTS
One exercise-related hack is to think of your workout as fun or invigorating rather than a chore. That perspective can prevent you from eating more sugary treats later as a reward for your hard work, a recent study suggests.
Researchers split 56 study subjects into two groups. The first was told they’d be going on a scenic walk, and the other learned they’d be taking the walk for exercise — even though both walks were the same distance. Afterward, those in the second group ate 35% more chocolate pudding for dessert than those who believed they’d been on a scenic walk.
“Viewing their walk as exercise led them to be less happy and more fatigued,” says lead researcher Carolina Werle, PhD, of Grenoble Ecole de Management in France.
These type of small tweaks in perspectives and routines can make a big difference when it comes to adjusting eating habits. No matter what your goals might be, mixing in some healthy hacks could be a welcome reset — without much effort.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT