How to eat less (without actually dieting)
ON A daily basis we are inundated with differing messages about diet and weight and while we lap it up, rarely do we walk away with useful strategies that we can implement long term for lasting results. So this article is not about the latest and greatest of diets or tips, rather looking at the proven ways we can eat fewer kilojoules without noticing. And for most of us, that can only be considered a good thing.
Just slow down
It is such a simple concept, eat more slowly and eat fewer calories yet so few of us do it, instead adopting a ‘Homer Simpson’ shovel as our default eating style, particularly when we find ourselves hungry and eating alone. A review of eating speed and kilojoule intake published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a significant relationship between the speed of eating and the number of kilojoules consumed suggesting that many of us just need to really slow it down if we want to eat less. Whether this is via choosing foods you need to chew more, such as salad and hard meats like steak, or behavioural strategies such as putting your knife and fork down in between each meal or chewing each mouthful 10 times, it is all about slowing things down. As a general rule of thumb aim for a main meal to last at least 20 minutes from start to finish and add plenty of salad and vegetable bulk to slow down the process.
This one sounds simple, but when you sit down and concentrate solely on eating and nothing else, not only are you likely to consume fewer kilojoules at that meal but also for the remainder of the day. An eating behaviour study published in the journal Appetite found that dieters who consumed their lunch while watch TV consumed significantly more cookie calories at afternoon tea than dieters who had enjoyed their lunch at a table with no distractions. It appears that keeping mindful during the eating experience is an important part of appetite regulation. For this reason make a concerted effort to move away from the computer at work when enjoying your lunch; turn the television off over dinner and put a stop to eating in the kitchen or when driving altogether.
Whether it is your plates, glasses or breakfast cereal bowls, it has been confirmed, the smaller the serving plates, mugs and wine glasses, the fewer kilojoules you will consume. Researchers at Cambridge University have recently published a review on eating habits and reported that simply choosing a plate or bowl that is half the size of the regular serving size slashes kilojoule intake by a massive 600kJ per day, or the size of an entire extra snack. Eating behavioural scientist Brian Wansink has published such studies for some time and this recent review further confirms the belief that the more we are served, the more we will eat. So it is time to go smaller — look for small dinner plates, dessert style cereal bowls, old school wine glasses and small tea cups to slash your daily energy intake.
Take your lunch
Did you know that your favourite wrap or sandwich from the food court or take away is likely to have twice the number of kilojoules of a simple sandwich you would make at home? Not only are the portions of food we pick up away from home much larger than we would usually serve ourselves but the extra sauces, oils, dressings and spreads can equate to literally an extra meal of energy. A recent review of popular lunch meals from the food court found on average that salads, stir fries, sandwiches and wraps contained 2400-3200kJ in a single serve, and that was for the ‘healthy’ options. Take control of your lunchtime kilojoule intake by taking your lunch from home as often as possible — leftovers, salads or simple sandwiches are low kilojoule, healthy options that will save you plenty of money as well as extra kilojoules. And if you do like to indulge occasionally, limit yourself to food court meals just once or twice each week.
We have all been there; the 99c chips or soft drink at the end of the supermarket aisle; the pre-dinner dip and crackers you find yourself hungry for when shopping on the way home from work and of course the obligatory chocolate bar you throw in the trolley while you wait at the check-out. Supermarkets know all too well that a significant number of purchases are completed on impulse and as such, shopping online not only eliminates all of these impulse buys but helps you to meal plan in advance each week, saving you calories and plenty of dollars. Not only is shopping online also time effective, but remember if you do not have it at home, you cannot eat it, which makes online shopping the easiest dietary strategy of all.
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