In Mindless Eating, the new book about how our brains influence the food choices we make, Cornell University professor Brian Wansink lays out the ways a living space geared towards healthy eating can trick you into a better life. Here are five of those ideas.
1. The Small Plate Hack
This one is almost self-explanatory: the smaller your plate’s surface area, the smaller the amount of food you can fit on it. Eating with small plates not only cuts down on the amount of food that you eat in each serving, it cuts down how much you eat globally. The food you make lasts longer and you wind up spending less money on groceries.
2. The Big Box Rule
Hide your guilty pleasure snack foods in small, out of the way containers, and put the healthy stuff in big boxes right up front. Putting your healthy snacks and leftover meals into big storage containers will make those items catch your eye when you open up the fridge. And believe it or not, our brains are so geared towards being lazy that you will not instinctively go out of your way to search for those smaller boxes in the back of the fridge.
3. Use the Russian Matryoshka Doll Method of Food Storage
Wrap all your food items in tinfoil. Then put them in a Ziploc storage bag. Then put them inside a plastic storage box. Packing your food away this way keeps it super fresh and also makes it harder for you to get to it. You won’t be tempted to snack because the food will be so hard to get. This method goes one step further than the previous item on this list because it makes sure that not only is the food located in a hard to reach spot in the fridge, it isn’t easy to unwrap once you get to it.
4. Shop in the Outer Limits
It’s not sci-fi, it’s the supermarket. The freshest foods that you can find in the store—the diary, produce, meats, bakery goods sections—are all located along the edge of the store, not in the central aisles. Do a round in the outer limits of your grocery and stay away from the sugary impulse items in the center and you’ll wind up with a much healthier haul when you get to the checkout counter.
5. Food Plate Color Contrast
The more your plate looks like your food, the more food you pile on the plate. Your brain can’t actually tell the difference between where the plate ends and the food begins. Subconsciously, you’ll pile it on just to make sure you get enough to eat. To combat this, use plates with high color contrast to what you are eating. Here’s a handy reminder of contrasts: each of the primary colors are contrasted by a secondary color. The contrasts are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. And if your food is brown? White plates should do.