Thursday, June 10, 2010

Banish Mindless Eating

Jess, me, Brian, Janel and Corinne at the Media Reception for FFYWL
One of my favorite presentations at Food for Your Whole Life Symposium was Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless eating.

A leader in the field of food psychology, he has unveiled a lot of the hidden influences on how much we eat, and how consumers make food choices. Did you know that we make at least 250 food choices every day? The question is, how can we influence more healthy food decisions? The answer may surprise you!

A dynamic speaker, he spoke how we can influence better food choices for ourselves and our children –mindlessly. Rather than being the next fad diet which promises you can lose weight effortlessly without thought, he uses years of food psychology research to re-engineer your food environment so that you will eat less without even knowing. While it is easy to blame fast food, big food, and the government for the rising rates of obesity in America, this food fight begins in our own homes:

5 Eating Myths that have a Simple Solution
  1. “Good kids clean their plate”- the danger of the clean plate club- If the parent insisted that their child cleaned their plate, they ate 44% more cereal, and took 1-2 more desserts. Solution: Don’t force kids to clean plate, let them eat what they want to eat.
  2. “My kid’s smarter than a bowl”- Wansink says, “Well, we are not smarter than bowls, so I can tell you our children aren’t. The larger the bowl, the larger the portion you will serve yourself. “ A full plate is a full plate, no matter what size it is. Give people stale, day old popcorn, in two different sized containers. Those with a larger container ate 33% more, even though they had just eaten. The size of the container gives us cues about how much to eat. Serve your meals in smaller dishes to eat less, and be equally satisfied. Wansink told me in his own home, he keeps only narrow glasses, but keeps 2 wider tumblers, in which he puts milk and water in, so his two daughters will drink more.
  3. Kids hate vegetables Kids love choices, and don’t like being told what to do. Tell your kid, Do you want carrots or celery? Give them the illusion of choice and they will eat more vegetables.
  4. I can’t control what they eat Yes you can! The nutritional gatekeepers- those who buy and prepare the food for their household, have amazing power on what their children eat. These people need to be empowered to make nutritious choices for their household. Give children positive associations with healthy foods. What was the 2nd favorite food of kids in the 30s? Spinach! Thanks to Popeye the sailor man! Make up stories about Brocolli trees, or give vegetables fun names-power peas and x-ray carrots. Studies have shown that these positive associations make kids eat more of those vegetables.
  5. The problems of food outside the home. Well, first, home food can be a problem. “The joy of cooking too much.” His lab analyzed the recipes in all of the Joy of Cooking books throughout the years. All but 1 recipe increased in calories from the first edition to the present copy. First make sure that you are feeding healthy meals at home. Then we need to looking at School lunch solutions. Putting the fruit and vegetables front and center in the cafeteria, and the salad before the French fries, makes children eat healthier at lunch with no cost to the school system. These small tweaks don’t require a Jamie Oliver style intervention, but are highly effective.
If we start to work on these points we can create a healthier generation. Check out his smarter school lunchroom initiative for more information about how to create a healthier cafeteria!

Some tips for preventing Mindless Eating in YOUR life:
  • We eat with our eyes not out stomachs- the first two things you put on your plate will take up over 60% of the space, so start with vegetables and whole grains first!
  • The size of your dish also matters. Your eyes will be tricked into thinking a drink in a narrow, vertical glass, than the same amount in a wide tumbler, and you will be satisfied with less.
  • Change your food environment: Put healthy food front and center. Eat out of small bowls and narrow glasses. Only eat in the kitchen and living room, not in front of your computer, television or fridge.
  • Make 1 small change. Often this will create a ripple effect that leads to big differences. Create a check-list that you have to check off if you are completing this task each day.
  • Be accountable! Finding a friend and stating your challenge, plans, and goals, makes you more likely to succeed.
I highly recommend you read his book “Mindless Eating” A fascinating read on the hidden forces that act on our food choices, and how easy it is to eat without thinking.

A perfect read for this Mindful Month!


KC said...

A great post! I generally embrace mutli-tasking, but I agree it is not good for eating. Plus, some good tips for feeding children. I'll pick up this book after my summer class!

Krystal said...

This post is awesome and was a great reminder to me to stop eating out of habit. As an athlete I feel like I deserve to eat whatever I want, whenever I want even if I'm not actually hungry. Since finding out about your goal to reduce mindless eating this month I've been focusing on really enjoying my meals and asking myself if I'm really hungry before I eat.

Thanks E!

Dan and Jace said...

Marissa, Jace and I all loved this post. Your blog looks great. Keep up the awesome work! Can't wait to see you over the Fourth. AH!

Jess said...

OMG those photos have me laughing my you-know-what off. Great post girl!!! Also, I started using the vivid function on my camera and will never go back. Thanks for the advice. I had such a GREAT time and can't wait to see what other adventures come our way!!!! miss ya

Brittany said...

Great tips lady. I totally agree that eating while watching tv or being on the computer can lead to over eating and yet I still do it. It's something I really need to work on.