Ever have trouble resisting a milkshake when passing by a favorite fast food joint A national study of the association between food environments and county-level health outcomes. Ahern, M; Brown, C; Dukas, S. Department of Pharmacotherapy, College of Pharmacy, Washington State University, Spokane et al. The Journal of Rural Health, 2011; 27(4): 367-79. ? What about craving salad after entering a health food store? It may not be complete coincidence— researchers have found environment can play a role in what (and how much) we choose to consume Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Wansink, B. Department of Marketing and Nutritional Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA. Annual Review of Nutrition, 2004; 24: 455-79. From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Wansink, B. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, U.S. Physiology & Behavior, 2010; 100(5): 454-63. .

Clean Plate Club — Why It Matters

Our “food environment” can be broken into two different parts. First, the atmosphere, distractions, and social interactions we encounter when actually eating, and second, how food is portioned (Double Gulp, anyone?) and presented to us Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Wansink, B. Department of Marketing and Nutritional Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA. Annual Review of Nutrition, 2004; 24: 455-79. . Together, these elements contribute to influencing the amount of food we eat at a given time Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Wansink, B. Department of Marketing and Nutritional Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA. Annual Review of Nutrition, 2004; 24: 455-79. .

Where these cues come from, of course, varies with what is being eaten, its packaging or utensil size, and the amount of food on a given plate From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Wansink, B. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, U.S. Physiology & Behavior, 2010; 100(5): 454-63. . And when eating out, that plate can be misleading, as restaurants often serve portions much bigger than recommended serving sizes. We may end up cleaning the plate not because we had the hunger pangs to match, but because seeing an empty plate signals satiety in our brains From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Wansink, B. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, U.S. Physiology & Behavior, 2010; 100(5): 454-63. . And the larger the portions get, the more trouble we have estimating the number calories consumed From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Wansink, B. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, U.S. Physiology & Behavior, 2010; 100(5): 454-63. .

My Kitchen's Making Me Fat! — The Answer/Debate

But don’t think that eating at home protects against these problems (cue horror movie music). Plate sizes in the house are even getting bigger, increasing up to 22 percent over the past century From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Wansink, B. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, U.S. Physiology & Behavior, 2010; 100(5): 454-63. . Plus, where we store food within the kitchen may even influence eating cues, bringing new meaning to “out of sight, out of mind” Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Wansink, B. Department of Marketing and Nutritional Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA. Annual Review of Nutrition, 2004; 24: 455-79. .

But how can we go about changing a behavior we may not even recognize as a problem? Step one: choose smaller plates and containers. Try pre-portioning food into single-serve amounts to help prevent overeating Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Wansink, B. Department of Marketing and Nutritional Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA. Annual Review of Nutrition, 2004; 24: 455-79. . It can also help to focus on the task at hand— eating— not what’s on television or the computer. Most of all, it’s important to learn the signs of true hunger and avoid mindless eating, especially when letting someone else do the cooking.

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