In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to play mind games to eat a healthy diet — we’d just realize that eating whole, nutritious foods make us feel better and do it. Unfortunately, we live in a world with tempting ads, addictive junk food and all the tasty treats.
It can be so easy to lose sight of our way amidst the literal Candyland we all navigate every day. Thankfully, science can help. According to new research, how you set up your environment and the way you eat food can make all the difference. So, if you’ve got serious health #goals, here are seven simple, science-backed ways to help you feel happy and healthy.
1. Don’t call it “health food”
Label something as “healthy,” and our brains automatically assume it tastes worse than the alternative, says a study by Cornell Food and Brand Lab. Instead of setting yourself up to feel deprived, keep an open mind and avoid labels altogether. It’s not “healthy” or “good” or “bad” or “sinful” cake, for example — it’s just cake.
2. Put a mirror in your kitchen (and eat in your kitchen)
Distracted eating is the nemesis of a healthy diet. To combat this, eat all your meals and snacks at the table in your kitchen. For more awareness of what you’re eating, the scientists say to consider putting a mirror in your kitchen. (Plus, it’s an excuse to go find — or make! — some gorgeous wall art.)
3. Chew slowly, really slowly
Turns out your mother is right — inhaling your food is bad for you. A study from University of California, San Diego, found that people who took 30 seconds between bites to chew or talk to dining companions didn’t gain weight even when eating high-calorie foods. They think the pausing is an easy form of automatic portion control as it gives your stomach time to feel full.
4. Make it a happy meal
Giving yourself a small nonfood prize with your meal will help you feel satisfied with less food, say the Cornell researchers. Turns out the McDonald’s Happy Meal trick works on grown-ups too!
5. Eat at a large table on a small plate with a fork
Little adjustments to your dining set up can make big differences. According to a series of studies, people who eat at large tables, using small plates and forks (whenever possible), eat 20 to 25 percent less food without even trying, thanks to these visual cues. Using chopsticks and paper plates can amp up the effect.
6. Take a fish oil supplement
Call it the new Mary Poppins motto: A spoonful of oil makes the weight go down, according to a new Japanese study. Researchers found that eating fatty fish, like salmon, or taking fish oil capsules turns your yellow, squishy fat into “metabolically active” brown fat. This means that your fat will be working for you, instead of against you!
7. Skip dinner, not breakfast
The Cornell researchers say the old advice to “eat like a king in the morning, a servant at lunch and a pauper at dinner” is sound. Many people, it turns out, simply aren’t that hungry in the evenings and that’s OK. Only eat until you’re full and no more.