Routt County CSU Extension: Mindless eating strategies make holidays healthier |

Routt County CSU Extension: Mindless eating strategies make holidays healthier

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just skip gaining the five extra pounds that usually creep on over the holidays? Wouldn’t it be awesome to enjoy festive parties and gatherings without experiencing the tightening waistband from your favorite pair of pants?

There are some interesting research findings from Cornell University that can help make our holidays healthier. By implementing a few small, easy changes to our environment, we can manage our calorie consumption during the holidays and prevent weight gain.

Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, has conducted several observational studies that provide insight as to why we overeat. In his book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think,” Wansink shows not only how mindless decisions about food can work against you, but also how to make them work in your favor. Here are a few of his observations:

• At buffets, people or normal weight tend to browse the food before making their selection. Once their selection is made, they will often select a smaller plate and move away from the food table to eat.

• Overweight people at buffets usually do not browse, but rather jump right into making their selections. They usually pick the larger plates and fill them with the first few items they encounter in the line-up. They will often sit near the food, facing the buffet.

• Wine drinkers pour about 9 percent less red wine than white wine. It’s possible that red wine has more volume because it is easier to see in the glass.

• People pour about 12 percent less wine when using taller wine glasses. Perhaps when we focus on the height of a glass, it appears to have a larger volume, so we pour less.

• People will eat more fruits and vegetables if they are at eye-level in the refrigerator or in a bowl on the counter rather than hidden away in a crisper drawer.

We can use some of these observations to make easy changes to our environment and consume fewer calories. Stock your refrigerator with prepared vegetables and fruit. Keep them on the counter or clear view in the refrigerator.

When you are at a party, take the time to look over the food choices. Identify the most attractive and healthy food options before serving yourself. When possible, select a smaller plate and then position yourself away from the food.

In the coming weeks, you will be confronted with many opportunities to eat calorie-laden holiday food. With planning and a few mindless eating strategies, you can enjoy the taste of the season and avoid overeating.

Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. Call 879-0825 or email with questions.

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