Trick Yourself into Eating Less

Posted 05/08/2013 | By HealthCorps

Brian Wansink, Ph.D. is one of the members of the HealthCorps’ Board of Advisors.  He is the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he also directs the Food and Brand Laboratory.

A highly regarded food and nutrition expert, he has written a new book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life (William-Morrow 2013). In a recent interview (Nutrition Action Health Letter, April 2013) he talked about over-eating and its correlation to mindless eating.  Specifically, he credits certain situations with nudging us to eat more:

  • Wider bowls, as opposed to taller, thinner containers nudge us to eat more.
  • Larger utensils like forks, spoons and serving spoons, nudge us to take more food.
  • Wider, shorter glasses will encourage us to drink more, while tall, thin glasses suggest larger portion visually
  • We seem to gravitate to “medium size” portions when ordering, so fast food makers could help by making medium size, a smaller size portion.
  • Seeing fewer food samples on a box label will typically encourage you to take a smaller portion.  So a box of crackers with 4 or 5 crackers on the front of the box will nudge you to take a smaller portion, compared to a box with 10 to 12 crackers in the front-of-the-box picture.
  • Seeing the term “organic” on a food product lures consumers into evaluating the item as a lower calorie food, and eating more.
  • Soft music and candlelight “tricks” you into eating slower and eating less.
  • Shopping when you are hungry will lead to more food purchases.
  • More variety often nudges more eating

You can use these tips to evaluate your own eating habits and make some changes that encourage more attention to mindful eating and especially portion control.

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