Tips for Optimizing Your Food Environment

caramel m&ms .JPG

Something that I always address when I give nutrition presentations is how to optimize the food environment. For one, I enjoy talking about it but also I think it's really helpful. Emotional eating tends to be a common struggle for a lot of people, and the majority of them are unaware that there are some simple changes that can make a huge difference in regards to eating out of boredom, stress, sadness, etc. 

Brian Wansink is a nutrition researcher out of Cornell University who specifically studies this and his findings are fascinating! You might remember hearing about how restaurants use specific lighting, colors and music to encourage people to stay longer and eat more. His study investigators also famously provided free popcorn in different sizes to moviegoers to observe how much each person consumed by the end. Those with the larger size ate significantly more  than those who were given a smaller size, even if the popcorn was stale. This just illustrates how package/container size can often lead to overeating (which of course is fine on occasion, but doesn't feel great when it happens routinely). Here are few tips for optimizing your food environment:

1. Serve yourself dinner in the kitchen instead of at the table.

This reminds you to check-in with your hunger before walking over to the kitchen to get seconds or thirds. I always reiterate the fact that if you are still hungry, by all means honor that. However when serving dishes are in within easy reach, it can be really easy to grab more without thinking twice (especially if you are having great conversation - which hopefully you are!).  

2. If you're a wine drinker, be mindful of different styles of glasses.

Wine glasses range in size from really small (think champagne flutes) to really large and each shape is designed for specific wine varieties. Because of this, a standard serving can look really different based on which one you use. Knowing this can help you gauge your intake better. 

3. Grab a portion of snacks instead of eating straight from the package.

This is a classic but it's effective. Stocking and using some small snack dishes can help you avoid mindless eating. Case in point, the caramel m&ms pictured above that are my current favorite thing (how are these so good?!). 

4. Keep fresh food prepped and easy to grab.

When I get home after work, the last thing I want to do is wash and chop vegetables for a snack and it's way too easy to grab a bag of chips and spoil my appetite before dinner instead. Set yourself up for success by having something fresh ready to go when you want it. My favorites are carrots, celery and red bell pepper strips (for dipping in hummus, nut butter or ranch); pasta/bean salads; and washed/chopped fruit. 

How do you optimize your food environment or what is one thing you can change now to set yourself up to success?