Posted on 03/15/2016 at 02:00 PM by YMCA of Greater Des Moines
We all know by now that we should adopt healthy habits like eating more fruits and veggies and cutting back on sugar — even if we don’t always (or usually, or ever) follow those guidelines. In honor of National Nutrition Month® here are a few healthy eating tips that aren’t quite as commonplace as “Finish your broccoli.”
Ever heard of the Delboeuf illusion? It causes us to misjudge the size of identical circles when they are surrounded by larger circles of different sizes. The more "white space" surrounding the circle, the smaller it will appear. When it comes to your kitchen table, Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab explains, this means that bigger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller, while smaller plates can make us misjudge that exact same quantity of food as being significantly larger.
Cornell reports that in a study held at a health and fitness camp, campers who were given larger bowls served and ate 16% more cereal than those given smaller bowls. “Despite the fact that those campers were eating more,” Colleen Giblin explains, “their estimates of their cereal consumption were 7% lower than the estimates of the group eating from the smaller bowls,” which suggests that not only could large plates compel us to serve and eat more, they can do so “without us noticing and trick us into believing we have eaten less.”
If you don’t have space or time for an extensive garden, start out small by setting up some potted herbs; a whiff of fresh basil on your windowsill might make whipping up a salad or fresh pasta sauce seem more enticing. Consider participating in a community garden, like the South Suburban YMCA’s garden, which comes with the benefit of extra support and neighborly connections. Involve your kids in the process, too; a study out of Ohio State University and Cornell University found that children were five times more likely to eat salad when they had grown it themselves.
“Quite simply, it is a case of 'out of sight, out of mind,'” Brian Wansink of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab explains. In a study where the researchers kept serving dishes off the table, people ate 20 percent fewer calories, and men ate close to 29 percent less. Conversely, storing healthy foods in sight may help you make better choices, too. Instead of having apples shoved to the back of a fridge drawer, for example, display them in a fruit bowl on the counter.
Out for dinner? Ask for a to-go box at the beginning of your meal instead of with the check. Restaurant portions are almost always oversized, so set aside part of your meal in a container before you’re tempted to polish off your plate.
Have to worry about your kids’ nutrition on top of your own? A recent study out of Brigham Young University and Cornell University found that when kids went to recess before they sat down for lunch, fruit and vegetable consumption increased by 54%; there was also a 45% increase in children eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables. When the kids aren’t at school, consider going to the park or running around in the yard before you sit down for lunch or dinner.
Next time you come by the Y, share your goals with a wellness coach and start developing a plan together. Many of our branches also have educational series like the Diabetes Empowerment Education Program, Healthy Weight Loss Challenge and the youth-focused Healthy Kids program. Check with your local branch to see what might be a good fit for your family.
Already found a few tricks that work for you? Share them in the comments!