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Health

Researchers Studying What Influences Our Mindless Eating Habits

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

david_highfield David Highfield
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At prestigious Cornell University, Professor Brian Wansink has students eating, well, dog food.

It’s one of a variety of experiments, the rest dealing with people food, on what influences our eating without us even realizing.

“We think we’re master and commander of all our food decisions, but were not,” said Wansink.

So what can get people to try dog food? Apparently, the word “organic.”

“When people believed it was organic, they were much more likely to try and taste it,” Wansink says.

When it comes to regular food, they’re looking at whether seeing yourself in a mirror that makes you appear thinner, will result in you eating more.

Also, they’re looking at whether using a tray that’s secretly weighted down will make you put less food on that tray.

Wansink runs the school’s food and brand lab.

“Let me show you the step up they have here,” he says. “This room looks like a kitchen, but it’s set for experiments. In fact, they have cameras all the way around the top. And they have one-way mirrors,” Wansink said.

Based on what he’s learned, he’s written a book called, Mindless Eating.”

“Here in my lab, of all the people who cycle through here, most people on average within a year end up losing 15 to 20 pounds,” said Wansink.

So what do they know, that you don’t that could help you lose weight?

No Bowls On The Table:
The first tip, don’t put food in serving bowls on the table; instead, make up plates in the kitchen.

“This really works for guys,” says Wansink.

He says that’s because guys generally eat fast.

“The rest of the family eats in slow motion compared to us, so what do we do? Well, we eat seconds and thirds and fourths, just so that we have something to do,” he says.

He says men eat 29 percent less if bowls are left on the kitchen counter.

Serve Salad First:
Next, serve salad or veggies first. That’s because he says we tend to eat more of whatever we start with.

“This works tremendous for kids,” Wansink says.

But if given a choice, with everything out on the table, people tend to go for meat or potatoes first.

Dim The Lights:
Maybe even try candlelight.

You might not realize it, but Wansink says, “It slows you down and allows your appetite to kind of catch up with your brain.”

The result, you’ll eat less.

Avoid Loud Music:
Avoid loud pop or rock music while you’re eating.

“It’s distracting and what we find is people tend to eat to the beat,” Wansink said.

He says you’ll inadvertently eat more, but with softer, soothing music, you’ll actually eat less.

Smaller Plates:
Use smaller plates.

“People serve about 22 percent less on this on than they do on your typical 12-inch plate,” says Wansink.

He says you’ll still feel satisfied because visually the plate looks full.

Skinny Glasses:
“If you want to be skinny – skinny glasses,” Wansink says.

People will stop pouring sooner with a taller, skinnier glass because it looks like there’s more there.

White Not Red:
Likewise, white wine glasses can help you drink less wine. He says that’s because red wine glasses are wider at the bottom, so it takes more to make them look full.

“If you want to drink 10 percent less wine, pull out the white wine glasses and put your red wine in there,” Wansink said.

Put Your Glass On The Table:
He says you’ll also pour less wine if you put the glass on the table rather than holding it in your hand.

Eye Level In The Fridge:
Put the most healthful foods right at eye level in your fridge.

“You’re three times as likely to take the first thing you see,” Wansink says.

Have A Pause Point:
When it comes to snacking, build in a pause point.

For example, if you go to a warehouse club and get a huge bag, divide up portions into smaller baggies so you’ll stop when the baggie is empty.

In one study, Wansink found that simply dying every seventh potato chip red gave people a visual cue that made them stop eating sooner.

TVs & Cars Are Bad:
Wansink says it’s a bad idea to eat in front of the TV or in a car because you’ll just end up eating more.

At Least 6 Feet Away:
Simply moving a candy bowl at least six feet away from you can make a big difference in how much you eat. Instead, put a fruit bowl front and center.

Two At A Time:
Finally, if you’re at a buffet, only put two things on your plate at time.

“If I can only have two things on my plate, I’m going to take the two things I like the most,” said Wansink.

When you go back, Wansink says “You’re a little less excited, so you maybe put a little less on your plate.”

He says in the end, you’ll eat nearly 30 percent less than you would otherwise.

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