Making small tweaks to how your kitchen is organised can help you eat healthier and shed the kilos.
If you struggle to manage your weight, or to lose it, your kitchen may be partly to blame. From the size of your dinner plates, to clutter on the countertop, a number of factors can have an impact on what you eat and how much.
Dr Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food & Brand Laboratory, has spent 25 years researching mindless eating and the simple changes we can make in our environment – such as our kitchen – to avoid weight gain. He refers to this approach to losing weight as being “slim by design”.
“When people try to lose weight they count calories, keep food diaries and read labels incessantly. It becomes a 24/7 job,” says Dr Wansink.
“But if a person can change a few things in their immediate environment – how they set up their refrigerator or how they set their table, for example, they can eat less without having to think about it. It’s easier to be slim by design than to be slim by willpower.”
Dr Wansink is currently turning his “slim by design” research and principles into a new health program in the UK. The program will help educate health organisations, businesses and the general public about how they can better manage their weight by relying less on willpower and more on the design of their everyday environment, starting with their kitchen.
Here, Dr Wansink outlines 10 changes you can make in your kitchen to help you lose kilos or avoid weight gain in the first place.
1 Have a fruit bowl
A strategically placed fruit bowl encourages you to eat more fruit but it has to be within a metre of foot traffic in the kitchen. Another good tip is to keep your car keys close to the fruit bowl. For the first two weeks it doesn’t really do anything, but after two weeks fruit will disappear at a fast rate.
2 Make your kitchen less comfortable
Kitchens have become a hub in the home but the more time we spend there, the easier it is to snack. So don’t make your kitchen too comfortable with soft chairs and a TV. When kitchens are less “loungeable” people spend 18 minutes less there each day, so that’s less time to be tempted to eat more.
You’re likely to eat 30 per cent fewer snacks if you have a clutterfree kitchen, research shows. People eat more if there are dishes piled on the drainer, mail on the table and general clutter around the place. In psychology this is called “licensing” – you’re in a messy, out-of-control environment that gives you an excuse to eat more.
4 Serve food away from the dining table
You’ll eat almost 20 per cent less by serving food away from the table. It’s easy to grab a second serve of pasta when it’s on the table in front of you. It’s more of a hassle if you have to get up and walk to get an extra serve. So plate up food from the stove or countertop.
5 Use medium-sized dinner plates
Big plates encourage us to eat bigger meals but small plates make us feel deprived and so we refill them. Eating from a dinner plate measuring 28 to 30 cm in diameter is the happy medium. Research suggests you’ll eat about 22 per cent less than if you use a larger plate.
6 Hide leftovers
Out of sight is out of mind when it comes to that last piece of birthday cake or leftover pizza slice. Wrap in aluminium foil or put them in a non-transparent container in the fridge and you’ll tend to forget about them.
7 Disconnect at mealtime
Listening to the radio, playing with an iPad or phone or reading can distract us and make us eat more, and so can watching television. A study in Chicago found people who eat dinner in front of the TV can eat faster and eat more, ignoring their body’s full signals. We asked 150 people how they knew they were through with dinner and a common response was “I know I’m through eating when the TV show I’m watching is over.”
8 Consider colours
Brightly coloured kitchens make us feel agitated so we’re likely to eat too quickly, while darker kitchens make us linger so we eat more. Avoid white dinner plates because they “camouflage” filling foods like potatoes, pasta and rice, and make us less conscious of portion size and how much we’re eating.
9 Turn your fridge upside down
In most fridges, the drawer to keep salad and vegetables fresh is at the bottom – out of sight. Less healthy foods are more easily seen on the middle and top shelves. If you have cut fruit and vegetables in the middle shelf of your refrigerator, your intake will increase considerably.
10 Reconfigure shelves
We’re three times more likely to eat the first food we see in a cupboard than the fifth food we see. Rearrange your shelves so that snacks and treats are out of your eyeline, or move the treat foods further away from the kitchen. Having to walk the extra distance gives you time to think about whether you’re really hungry and need to eat. W