Keep snack foods out of sight
Women who keep cereal on their counters have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those whose boxes are tucked away in pantries and cabinets. Storing snack foods, like muffins and cookies, in plain sight is associated with higher BMI in men, according to a study in Health Education & Behavior. On the other hand, keeping healthy foods highly visible is associated with a slimmer figure: Women who stored fruit on the counter had lower BMIs than those who didn't. “The idea is to help you mindlessly eat better, so you don’t reach for chips just because they’re there,” says Andrew Hanks, PhD, professor in consumer sciences at Ohio State University and co-author of the study. Need major weight-loss motivation? Here’s the secret weight-loss advice used by the folks on The Biggest Loser and other reality shows.
Avoid cutesy dessert dishes
People tend to scoop more and eat more ice cream with a whimsical ice cream serving spoon shaped like a mini person with a hairdo than with a neutral scoop, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. “Whimsical cuteness makes people want to have fun and reward themselves and indulge,” says study co-author Gergana Nenkov, PhD, associate professor in marketing at Boston College. Use this psychology trick to your advantage: artsy tongs or a pretty bowl for a salad might lead you to eat more greens. These other tricks can help you eat less without thinking about it.
Downsize your plates
Eating your entree on a salad plate can cut how much you serve yourself by 33 percent, says David Just, PhD, a professor in applied economics and management at Cornell University. Try using plates about two inches smaller than usual, Just suggests. “If you go from using 12-inch to six-inch plates, you’re going to end up taking seconds and thirds and so you’ve defeated that purpose,” Just says. “If it’s just a small change in serving size, you’ll end up eating less without that compensating behavior.”
Keep your serving station away from the table
Leave a healthy salad on the table, but serve heavy entrees from the stove top. “It’s an inconvenience effort,” Hanks says. “If you want seconds, you have to get up and get it.”
Don’t keep family-sized snack packages around
You’re more likely to eat more than one serving of chips or candy if you reach into a family-size bag than a single-serving package, says James Painter, PhD, emeritus professor at the school of family and consumer sciences at Eastern Illinois University. If you need to rip open a new bag every time you want more, you’ll have to rethink whether you really want seconds, he says. Individual packages are usually more expensive than bulk ones, so consider portioning big bags into zip-top snack bags instead. “Rip it open, grab a handful, put it into a sandwich bag and zip it,” Painter says. “It doesn’t need to be measured, and it takes 45 seconds.” Try eating one of these 31 healthy snacks for adults.
Ignore your fridge design
“Refrigerators are designed so the first thing you see when it’s opened is tall objects or meat and cheese in the second drawer, whereas vegetables and healthier foods are down below your knees,” Just says. Put produce on eye level, where you’ll be more likely to reach for it. Better yet, make your healthy food choices even more convenient by buying ready-to-eat baby carrots, or cut up peppers and apples before putting them in the fridge, Just suggests. This is what nutritionists always stock in their fridges.
Set the mood
Playing soothing, classical instrumentals during meals could make you eat less because you automatically slow down your eating to match the music, Painter says. Make the atmosphere even more relaxing by dimming the lighting. When you eat slower, you’ll also be satisfied with smaller portions. “You’re not speeding yourself, you’re enjoying the food,” Painter says. Eating at a restaurant? Watch for these sneaky menu tricks that influence your order.
Opt for thinner glasses
Tall, narrow glasses look like they’re holding more liquid than short, stout ones that contain the same exact volume. “The liquid stacks up thin, which makes it look like you’re getting more,” Just says. For sugary drinks, go with a taller glass, but reach for a shorter one when drinking water or milk.
Buy green plates
People serve smaller portions on dishes that contrast with the food they’re eating, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, meaning you’ll serve yourself more pasta on a white plate. To eat more leafy greens, pick up green plates that your veggies will blend into but will contrast with carbs. If green isn’t your color, use a tablecloth that matches your plate color. Serving on a surface that doesn’t contrast much with the dishes leads diners to dole out less food, the study found.