Twelve ideas to help keep off holiday pounds
December 24, 2006
Three French pastries … two turtle cheesecakes … and a partridge in a pear sauce.
The Twelve Days of Christmas bring holiday foods meant to be enjoyed, but no one wants a weight problem when the merriment ends.
Food psychologist Brian Wansink has spent many of his own days researching how these problems occur.
His new book, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” explores the unconscious cues that make us feast as we do, and how we can keep them from manipulating us.
Nearly all of his suggestions are based on published results of scientific studies he has conducted as director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.
Here are 12 of his tips, one for each day of the season:
Recommended Stories For You
• Put high-calorie foods on plates in the kitchen and leave leftovers there. You’ll eat 15 percent to 20 percent less. Do not serve “fat-family” style (from a big platter or bowl that is passed) unless it’s veggies or salad.
• See it before you eat it. Dishing out Chex Mix led one group to consume 134 fewer calories than others who ate straight from the bag.
• Keep the evidence on the table – turkey bones, muffin papers, candy wrappers. Diners in one study ate 30 percent more chicken wings when the bones were periodically cleared away than others whose bones stayed in front of them.
• Bank calories. Skip the appetizers if you know you want dessert. You also will be more accurate at estimating how many calories you consume.
• Sit next to the slowest eater at the table and use that person to pace yourself. Always be the last one to start eating, and set your fork down after every bite.
• Embrace comfort food. Don’t avoid the food you really want, but have it in a smaller portion.
• Avoid having too many foods on the table. The more variety, the more people will eat. People ate 85 percent more M&Ms when they were offered in nine colors rather than seven.
• Keep your distance. To reduce the mindless snatch and grab, move more than arms length away from the buffet tables and snack bowls.
• For foods that are not good for you, think “back.” Put them in the back of the cupboard, the back of the refrigerator, the back of the freezer. Keep them wrapped in aluminum foil. Office workers ate 23 percent less candy when it was in a white, covered candy dish than in a see-through one.
• Use small bowls. A study found that people serving themselves from smaller bowls ate 59 percent less.
• Use tall, narrow glasses for drinks. Even experienced bartenders poured more into short, squat glasses than into skinny ones.
• Don’t multitask. People tend to unconsciously consume more when distracted by conversation or a game on TV. Setting your fork down and giving the conversation your full attention will prevent overeating.
“We don’t know exactly how many calories, but chances are you’ll enjoy it more,” Wansink said. “And people will enjoy you more.”