We make over 200 food-related choices each day. Some choices are easier than others. What you should eat for breakfastmay be a relatively simple decision, especially if you just rotate a few basic choices regularly. But other decisions are more challenging, like deliberating about whether or not to dip into the candy dish on your coworker's desk.
Many of our subconscious food choices can trigger unwanted weight gain or sabotage weight-loss efforts. How exactly did you decide how much popcorn to eat during movie night? Are you aware of the role your environment plays in your food selection?
Here are eight triggers that may impede weight loss – and how to avoid them before it's too late:
1. You keep food on your kitchen counter.
If your kitchen counter is cluttered with food, research shows you may weigh 8 to 29 pounds more than someone whose counter is clear, according to the book "Slim by Design" by Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. One of the most dangerous culprits? Visible breakfast cereal! Despite claims of containing whole grains and essential nutrients, people often overeat cereal because of its health halo claims.
Solution: Give your kitchen a makeover. Remove visible food from your countertops and replace it with a bowl of fruit. According to Wansink's research, people who have a bowl of fruit on their kitchen counter weigh an average of 7 pounds less than people who don't!
2. You keep snack food in clear containers.
You're more likely to eat the food you can see, so storing snack food in clear containers is a recipe for temptation – especially if the treats are at eye-level.
Solution: Out of sight, out of mind.Store high-calorie, high-fat and high-sugar snacks in opaque containers and keep them inside the pantry instead of on the counter. The Google office in New York tried this method – and it worked, reducing their caloric intake from candy by 9 percent in just one week, Fast Company reports.
3. You finish what your child doesn't.
Children, up to age 5, are much better than adults at recognizing hunger and satiety cues, so they eat until they're full – and not more. If you regularly eat your meal and then dive into others' leftovers, you might gain weight from the little bites and nips that you didn't think would count.
Solution: Serve yourself a piece of what your child is eating and keep away from what's on his or her plate. Save the little one's leftovers for lunch the next day.
4. You have a candy dish on your desk at work.
Whether it's on your desk or the desk of a coworker, many people are within arm's reach of candy at work – 476 calories of it to be exact, according to Wansink. In fact, Wansink reports that people with a candy dish on their desk weigh 15.4 pounds more than people who don't.
Solution: Fill your candy dish on your desk with paperclips instead of sugary treats. If you want to eat something sweet at work, just BYOS (Bring Your Own Snack). Choose one that comes in an individual, portion-controlled size.
5. You're watching an action movie.
Health experts have never endorsed eating in front of the TV because it increases distraction, leading to mindless munchies. But research now shows that what you're watching can influence your eating habits, too. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people eat more when they're watching action-related TV than if they're turning into a less engrossing program.
Solution: During meals, turn off the tube and focus on conversation and the food in front of you. When families grab table time together, kids tend to eat more vegetables and fruits and less fried foods and sugary soft drinks. Set an example when you set the table to help you gain enjoyment and possibly even lose weight.
6. You use oversized dinner plates.
Studies show that the size of your dishes cues your consumption norm. If you use larger plates and bowls, you are more likely to serve yourself and consume more food – about 16 percent more! Research also shows that we eat over 90 percent of the food we serve ourselves, so over-serving can contribute to overeating.
Solution: Invest in smaller plates – and you may be able to treat yourself to a smaller pants size as well.
7. Sugary drinks are at eye level.
We tend to buy more products that are stored at eye level at the supermarket and to grab items that meet our gaze when we open the refrigerator.
Solution: Keep a pitcher of water – not sugary drinks – at eye level in your fridge. Fill the pitcher with fresh cut fruit to make it even more appealing. All sodas and sugary drinks should stay on the supermarket shelf for good.
8. You eat directly from the package.
Whether it's popcorn, cereal, jerky or even grapes, eating directly from a food package distorts our sense of how much we're consuming and leads to portion distortion.
Solution: Pre-measure and pre-portion all snack foods and place them in single-serving bags to define and predetermine an amount that will help keep calories in check.
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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