According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of the new book, Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions For Everyday Life, slim-by-design homes start with the grocery store. He says, "What you buy determines what you eat at home." But before you even set foot in a grocery store, Wansink says it's vital to do a few things to set your home up to help you and your children easily eat better without even thinking about it.
For starters, Wansink urges families to take steps to make their kitchens less of a place to hang out for extended periods of time. That's a smart idea, because if you think about it, the kitchen probably is the most popular hub in the home. And too much time in it can make it more likely you and your children eat more than you plan to or more than your bodies need. So for starters, Wansink suggests moving comfortable chairs and television sets out of the kitchen. "Removing some kitchen comforts helps people spend less time—18 minutes less, on average—in the kitchen. And they tend to snack less," he says.
In Slim By Design, Wansink also recommends giving your kitchen a 15-minute makeover and to make healthier foods really convenient and the so-called junk foods that provide just a little more temptation than most of us need more difficult to find. He suggests the following six tips:
*Clear the counters of any food other than a bowl of fruit;
*Put the healthiest foods out front and center in your cupboards and pantry;
*Put cut fruits and vegetables in plastic bags on the eye-level shelf of your refrigerator—this encourages people to consume up to three times more produce than if they're in a crisper drawer;
*Wrap indulgent leftovers in aluminum foil or put them in opaque containers— "Aluminum foil and opaque containers don't stimulate cravings in anyone," Wansink says;
*Have a separate, hard-to-reach snack cupboard with a child-proof lock to remind the whole family to think before they mindlessly reach for snacks, especially nutrient-poor ones—snacks can be in a more reachable location for younger kids, but they shouldn't be so visible such as on a kitchen counter;
*Make it easier and more convenient to cook healthy food by keeping your countertop clear and cutting boards handy, having a well-stocked pantry filled with lots of basics, and having available a range of fresh ingredients.
Wansink also thinks it's key to "fat-proof" your dinner using the following strategies:
*Using 9- to 10-inch dinner plates for adults, and smaller sized plates like salad plates for kids to match their smaller sizes;
*Pre-plating food from the store or from your countertop rather than serving food family style—According to Wansink, people eat on average 19% less when they serve themselves food right off the stove or off the countertop than from food in front of them at the table;
*Using tall or small glasses or half-filled sippy cups (for little kids) for any beverages that aren't water;
*Using smaller bowls to serve food and tablespoons as serving spoons;
*Using the Half-Plate Rule—make half your plate fruits or vegetables (e.g. salad) and half whatever else you want to help you eat healthy food without feeling deprived.
Finally, Wansink also suggests never putting more than two foods on your plate at once. People who follow this strategy eat an average of 30% less than when they put more foods on their plate.
Slim By Design provides tons of practical and useful tips to help you and your family seamlessly improve your eating habits and make better food choices whether you're at home, at the grocery store, at a restaurant, at work, or at school. And with his bestselling book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, and more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles to his credit, Wansink has really done his homework to help families everywhere eat better no matter where they are and even enlist the help of restaurants, grocery stores, and school to support their efforts.
To see whether your kitchen helps keep you slim or sabotages you, check out the Slim By DesignTM Starter Scorecard here. And for more information about the book and the movement, check out the Slim By DesignTM website.
How do you set up a healthy kitchen and home?
Image of Brian Wansink via Jason Koski, Cornell News Bureau.