Food psychology is a complex topic, but can really be connected with the majority of our eating behaviors. Like plate size, for example, which has steadily increased over time. Could that factor into Americans’ expanding waistlines? Or monstrous portions at restaurants, at which we eat more often than we used to (home cooked meals, people – it’s not that hard!). I highly suggest checking out Dr. Brian Wansink’s website, and his various studies on food psychology and how the smallest tweaks (plate color, plate size, environmental cues, color contrast and many others) can greatly affect the amount of food that you eat.
I could go on and on about Brian Wansink and other food psychologists/researchers, but let’s face it, you really only want to know how to cheat the system. AKA you want to know how put all the research and tactics to use. Now, this is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start. Let me know if you have other “food cheats.” I always love hearing about them!
1. SERVE EVERYTHING OPEN-FACED
Which looks bigger? This open-faced omelet….
Or the classic folded-over omelet?
By the way, both of the above are sweet omelets. The open-faced one has apples and walnuts baked in (with cinnamon sprinkled on top) and the folded-over one has pumpkin puree in the inside and on top (plus cinnamon sprinkle).
The open-faced rule goes for sandwiches, tacos/quesadillas/other tortilla-containing foods, gyros, etc.
2. ADD LOTS OF VEGETABLES. NOW ADD EVEN MORE.
Vegetables contain water (provides volume) and fiber for very few calories, meaning they will fill you up, not out. Try replacing some of your pasta with vegetables. Or add sauteed veggies to pizzas. Or grain dishes (i.e. quinoa, cous cous, brown rice with added veggies). Veggies also provide gobs of vitamins and minerals. And if you’re like most people, you’re not getting enough of those nutrients. Oh, and you’re probably not drinking enough water. Veggies help with that too.
3. USE SMALLER PLATES AND BOWLS.
Picture this scenario…You have a small plate overflowing with food. Now take that same amount of food and put it on a large (what we think of as normal) sized plate. Hmm…which looks like more food? Obviously the overflowing plate seems like more food, and thus your brain can be tricked into thinking that it’s getting a nice giant portion. And to really drive home the vegetable point, if your smaller plate was mostly loaded with veggies, you’d be even better off.
The same goes for bowls. A serving of cereal, for example, is usually 1 cup. However, most of our “cereal bowls” fit 2+ cups of cereal. If you’re not accounting for that, you’re getting hundreds of extra calories daily.
Cup size can undergo a similar phenomenon. Try using taller, thinner glasses as opposed to short, fat, highball-type glasses. You will feel like you’re drinking more in the tall, thin glass and will subsequently feel more satisfied.
4. ADD COLOR!
Having a “rainbow of color,” so to speak, adds visual interest to your meal and also makes the food look more appetizing. Also, the color of food often translates to the nutrients found in that food. For example, anthocyanins are antioxidants that provide the deep purples, blues and reds found in foods like berries, red cabbage and eggplant. Beta-carotene, which contributes to eye health and immunity, among other things, is what gives carrots and sweet potatoes their deep orange hue.
A or B??
See?? Color makes the food look significantly more appetizing. And generally translates to more/a greater variety of nutrients.
5. DRINK WHILE YOU EAT.
Drinking water between bites not only helps you slow down, it also helps you eat less. Water acts as volume and thus fills your stomach up, tricking your stomach into feeling fuller. Broth-based soups have a similar effect, which is why you hear nutrition/health/weight loss experts suggest eating brothy soup before your meal. Basically anything that adds volume to your belly but doesn’t contribute major calories is a plus.
6. DID I MISS ANY??
Perhaps cutting your food into smaller pieces — gives you more bites of the food, but you’re still eating the same amount.
Or: always eat from a plate. Or bowl. Eating straight from the bag or original container makes it hard to keep track of how much you’ve eaten. For example, the chips and salsa provided as an “appetizer” at Mexican restaurants. I don’t know about all of you, but I could polish off a whole basket, mainly because I’m not keeping track of how many chips I’m eating (if I realized that I’d eaten 4 cups, 60 chips or some other concrete amount, I would probably not eat so many).