Training the brain can be the first step to trimming the waistline. Revamping unhealthy practices and traditions involving food can go a long way in improving eating habits. The name of the weight-loss game is consuming fewer calories than you expend. But you don’t need to count calories to cut them.
10 traditions and common practices that are prime for tweaking:
- Southern culture manners. Cleaning our plates is considered good manners and a sign of respect in many Southern households. Culturally we do this, but it’s not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. The way to combat this is to not put so much on your plate — portion control. You can always go back and get more.
- Carbohydrate overload? Divided paper plates to the rescue. Americans often pile on the carbohydrates — mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, stuffing — and then think about adding meat to our plates. The solution is plate sectioning, using paper plates that are divided into sections. Rather than piling the pasta and potatoes in the largest section, save the largest section for the vegetables. I’ve helped people manage their diet by doing nothing but using paper plates and putting their carbs in the smaller portion. If it doesn’t fit in that smaller portion, you don’t need it.
- Avoid “stacking.” We often stack complementary foods on top of each other, such as veggies atop rice. This lets diners try a little of everything, but the calories can really add up. Rather than stacking foods, place them next to each other. this can trick your brain into thinking that you have more food than they really do.
- More Southern culture. I’m a southern boy, so I was always taught save my beverage until after my meal, not during. Drinking before and during meals, however, can help you feel fuller and control portion sizes.
- Reality check for empty-nesters and Grandparents. Grandparents scale back to you cooking to match your smaller household. After the kids leave home, parents often continue preparing the same quantities of food that they cooked for their larger family, thus eating more themselves.
- Taste it first. We often season food before we taste it. Put your favorite sauces and dressings on the side. You don’t really know if you need it. “Our favorite sauces usually are loaded with hidden sugars.
- Share your food, really. Portion sizes at restaurants often are so large that they encourage overeating. Ask for a doggie bag to come with the meal so a portion can be put aside early on. Some restaurants allow you to share meals, which is another option to avoiding oversized portions.
- Slow down. Culturally, we eat too fast, Williams said. Eating more slowly lets the body realize when it is full sooner rather than later — when it’s too late.
- Do’s and Don’ts of breakfast. Working Americans often skip it or overindulge, resulting in fatigue leading up to lunch. Eat a sensible breakfast but also drinking water first thing in the morning to counter the dehydration that occurs overnight. Some people find this as beneficial as coffee. When your stomach is growling, it’s often really calling for liquid, not food. Drinking water also helps control portion sizes.
- Rethinking lunch. Culturally, dinner is typically the biggest meal of the day with restaurants usually offering smaller meal sizes for lunch. Americans, however, spend most of their energy earlier in the day. Arrange to have a larger meal at lunch rather than dinner to help provide fuel for busy days.