I attended the 4-day diabetes educators national conference (AADE) in Indianapolis last week. As a registered dietitian, we are required to obtain at least 75 credits of continuing ed every 5 years. I got 20 credits for this conference and lots of new ideas to help people, both those with diabetes and others.
I plan to share a few tips and things I found interesting over the next few blog posts.
One of our keynote speakers, Dr. Brian Wansink from Cornell University Food and Brand Labs, spoke about “From Mindless Eating to Mindlessly Eating Better”.
It seems obvious, but he has done lots of research looking at what things in the environment make a big difference in the amount of food we eat.
Some of his observations:
- You pour less in a skinny tall glass than in a short fat glass.
- You eat more when serving yourself in a big bowl vs. a small bowl.
- Same thing with the size of a plate.
- You eat more when the food has less contrast with the plate or bowl. For instance, spaghetti with red sauce has a good contrast with a white plate; macaroni and cheese has a poor contrast with a yellow plate.
What’s so interesting is that even when people are coached ahead of time not to take as much food because of the bowl size, they still do (apparently they can’t help it).
He also has been doing school lunchroom makeovers to change the environment so that kids can’t help but to choose healthier. Some of the things they did at schools to increase fruit and vegetable consumption without bribes or reducing the price:
- Put the bowl of fresh fruit at the beginning of the lunch line, not the end. Use a pretty bowl for the fruit, and light it from above. Fruit sales went up over 100 percent in some schools.
- Move the salad bar from the corner of the lunchroom to the middle, where kids can’t help but see it. I forgot the exact increase in sales but it was nearly as good as the fruit.
More info about the Smarter Lunchroom Movement is here.
Dr. Wansink contends that you can’t make yourself think harder about food in order to do better with food choices. You have to change your environment to make it happen (“the best diet is the diet you don’t know you’re on”).
Three easy things that he recommends everyone do to make a difference in calorie intake without too much effort:
- Start using a smaller plate.
- Portion the ice cream (get the good stuff but have only one scoop)
- Put fresh fruit in a pretty bowl on your kitchen counter.