Health Tips: Don't Let Your Kitchen Make You Fat

You kitchen could be preventing you from losing weight, check out how.

January 14, 2011, 3:04 PM

Jan. 13, 2011 — -- The kitchen is the heart of your home, but it might also be at the heart of your unwanted weight. Everything from the size of your plates to the wattage of your bulbs has a direct effect on what and how much you eat, according to research in the Annual Reviews of Nutrition. We've got some simple fixes to get the scale moving in the right direction.

Problem: On average, kitchens are 50 percent larger than they were 35 years ago, making them a place where lots of activities happen, such as watching TV or paying bills. According to a recent study, participants who ate while watching TV consumed about one extra meal per day!

The kitchen is also where we toss everything from our keys to the mail, and a messy space makes healthy eating harder. It's a lot easier to grab a few cookies or order a pizza than to unearth a countertop and cook.

Solution: Keep large areas of counter space clear for meal prep, and reserve an area in the kitchen for eating only, designated by place mats.

You'll also want to move the TV or laptop out of the kitchen, and shift tasks like talking on the phone to another room, where food isn't within reach. When you separate eating from other activities, you're more likely to focus on your food and listen to fullness cues. Studies show that when distracted, you'll eat 15 percent more.

Problem: We all love to eat this way, but when heaping bowls of food are in front of you, you're much more likely to scoop another helping than if you have to cross the room to get more.

It's also harder to keep track of calories: In one study, people guessed they had one or two servings during a family-style dinner, when in fact many of them had taken up to four.

Solution: Plate your main dish, such as meat and rice or pasta, at the stove, and keep serving bowls of salad and vegetables on the table during dinner—most of us don't get enough servings a day, and having these low-calorie options at arm's reach may encourage a second or third helping.


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Problem: Most of us make a habit of filling our plates and finishing what's on them, but since the 1970s, dinner plates have grown 25 percent, to 12 inches or more in diameter.

Solution: Eat off a plate about 2 inches smaller and you'll serve yourself 22 percent fewer calories per meal, which can mean a 2-pound weight loss in 1 month. But you don't have to go out and buy new flatware to solve the problem – just rethink your place settings. Use your salad plate to hold higher-calorie meats or pasta, and load your dinner plate with veggies.

An added bonus? Using smaller plates will help make your meal appear larger. A portion that appears to be too small to your eyes will trigger your brain to want to eat more. As you can see here, the same amount of food looks like a much more substantial meal on the smaller plate.

Problem: This may surprise you, but people serve themselves more soda and juice when using short, wide glasses than they do with tall, skinny ones, according to recent research. That's because we focus on the height of beverages when pouring a portion.

Solution: Use skinny glasses for soda and juice, and fill wider ones with water and other calorie-free beverages.

Problem: Bulk shopping can help cut food bills, but if you store groceries in their supersize packages, you're more likely to supersize your meals. Researchers found that people prepared 23 percent more food when cooking from large containers and ate twice as many candies from big bags as from smaller ones.

Having a large variety of food may cause you to overeat too: With four types of cookies at your fingertips, you're more likely to try a little of each in search of satisfaction.

Solution: Big packages don't have a natural stopping point, so break them down into smaller containers or single-serving portions.

Also, keep only one variety of your favorite treat in the house to help curb temptation


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Problem: Just seeing tempting food makes people feel hungrier. It also causes the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that produces a feel-good sensation and may intensify a particular craving.

Solution: Put trigger foods in opaque containers and stash them in an inconvenient spot. When you need a step stool to reach those cookies or have to push past veggies to get to the leftover cake in the fridge, it serves as a speed bump to help you pause and reconsider.

You should also create a no-brainer snack bucket and keep it easily within reach. Load an open container with healthy options like yogurt and cheese sticks, and keep it front and center in the fridge.

Keep healthy options like fruit and veggies at eye level in the fridge or on the counter as well – produce stashed in the crisper drawer in your fridge is oven overlooked since it's out of sight – and therefore out of mind. Some fruits and veggies actually taste better and stay fresher longer at room temperature, including oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, and tomatoes.


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Problem: High-wattage lighting can raise stress levels, stimulating your appetite and causing you to eat faster than usual, according to research reviews. On the flip side, too dim is no better--studies show low lighting lessens inhibitions.

Solution: Many modern kitchens have layers of light sources, from under-the-cabinet halogens to recessed lights around the perimeter and a decorative fixture over the table. When you're cooking, flip on as many lights as you'd like, but when it's time to eat, use no more than 240 total watts. That's the equivalent of four 60-watt bulbs in a four-light over-the-table fixture, for example, or six 40-watt bulbs in six high hats; with compact fluorescent bulbs, use 75 to 100 total watts.

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