Designing for Healthier Eating without Willpower at Home
If you struggle with eating healthier, I recommend you open your fridge and see what is at eye level. Nothing? Last night’s leftover pizza? A can of Mountain Dew®? What about your countertops? What food is sitting out visible?
Every day you make over 200 decisions dealing with food. For most people eating healthier means adding even more decisions on top of that number 200. Thoughts like “I don’t have anything in the fridge”, or “that will take too long to thaw”, or “how can I use what I have in a dish” creep in and zap your willpower available for healthier eating.
The secret to eating healthier is making it effortless to follow through with, taking out any extra thinking power required to make it happen.
The easiest place to start is redesigning where you eat most of your food – home. Here are three major areas to focus on redesigning your home for healthier eating without willpower.
1. Do a refrigerator makeover
The key here is to make sure when you open the fridge only healthy options are at eye level when you open the fridge door. Using clear see through glass is my favorite way to go for storing healthy snacking options you want to pop out at you when you open the door.
Plastic containers get stained and just don’t look as nice. Making food look good does influence what you reach for when you are tired and worn out.
Then anything you don’t want to eat or munch on should be in opaque containers in your fridge. Even just wrapping in aluminum foil makes it a mystery food and you are less likely to open it up when rushed to see what is inside.
For more tips on redesigning your fridge, sign up for my free download, 10-item Refrigerator Checklist.
2. Clear the counters of food almost
Clean and organized counters without food or food bags sitting out helps with making more centered decisions around food. The only food out should be a fruit bowl with fresh fruit.
A study found that people who had fruit on their counter weighed 13 pounds less than those that did not. Other surprising truths about food on counters are:
- Leaving boxes of breakfast cereal sitting on the counter will give you 20 pounds more than someone that didn’t.
- Leaving bottles of soda on the counter will make you heavier by about 25 pounds.
I am not saying you can’t have these foods in your home, but keep them out of sight.
3. Table manners
How food is served and eaten can change how much you eat without any willpower by a lot.
The first thing you can do is serve the vegetable and/or salad first, before the entree and starches or carbs are brought to the table. This helps because you start to fill up on foods that are more nutrient dense. And also just as they start to make a dent in your hunger you are ready for the main course and you won’t be as famished as you were before. Without thinking, you don’t dish up an oversized portion.
Next, dish out the main entrée in the kitchen onto plates and leave the unplated food in the kitchen while you eat in the dining room. Avoid bringing out the entire dish, casserole or pizza to the table. The act of having to go back to the kitchen to get more often eliminates a second trip or ends up with a smaller second serving.
Oh, and the size of your plate, this is a big deal. You want it to be around 9 or 10 inches in diameter. Don’t use the traditional ‘dinner’ plates to eat food off of which is typically 12 inches in diameter. The savings is 22% in calories. Yep, studies find people eat 22% more when they are given a traditional ‘dinner’ plate to eat off of.
Lastly, keep the television and electronic devices away from the table or turned off if they are in sight. Studies find families that socialize during dinner and keep the television off have lower Body Mass Indexes (BMIs).
My philosophy is before you begin to menu plan, read labels, or change your portion sizes for healthier eating you want to have change the very environment you eat in. These are all easy steps to do and once they are done, the actions for healthier eating just happen, they are habit, and they don’t require willpower.