4 Tricks to Prevent Overeating at Your Next Cookout

The holiday barbecue—so tantalizing, so fun, and SO rigged with pitfalls and landmines for those trying to stick to a plan. Gigantic bowls of chips with equally large containers of dip. A slew of creamy slaws and salads. Plates, bags, and bins of cookies, brownies, and other delectations.  Everything is so hard to resist and even harder to only eat one, especially when you’re hanging with friends and family and not thinking about what you’re putting in your mouth. What can you do?

You need a plan to help you avoid overindulging.

With Labor Day only a few weeks away, I wanted to reiterate some of the information I found in Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, PhD. Dr. Wansink is not just a doctor, but is also the founder and director of the food and brand lab at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His breakthrough research has shown that we’re constantly surrounded by imperceptible but irresistible cues that affect how we eat, what we eat, and when we eat. Worse, many of those triggers push us to eat too much. But believe it or not there is some good news: With a few simple tricks, you can maneuver these landmines of overindulgence. Here’s what Wansink suggests:
  1. Beware of the Big Plates.

    Fact, the size of your plates and bowls can add or subtract calories to or from your meal. “Environmental cues tell you how much you should serve or eat,” says Wansink. A big plate makes portions look smaller, so we tend to load it up with more food, he explains. Use small or medium bowls, and skip the super-size paper plates in favor of something smaller; 8 or 9 inch plates are a good fit for most meals.

  2. Consider color.
    Surprisingly, the color of your plates can also influence how much you eat. In a 2011 study, Wansink’s team found that people dished out and ate more pasta with marinara sauce if they were given red plates. The same for Alfredo sauce served on white plates. The reason is simple. Portion sizes look smaller than they are if the food blends into the background. The solution: contrasting plates. Consider what you’ll be serving, and pick a plate in a contrasting color. Eating potato or pasta salad along with a burger or hot dog? Pick a dark-colored plate.  Munching on healthy greens, grilled veggies, and salmon? Classic white is perfect.
  3. Downsize your serving spoons.
    The silverware you eat with doesn’t seem to influence intake, however serving spoons and other utensils you use to fill dishes for yourself or others may have an effect. Large utensils make serving sizes seem smaller, so you’ll tend to dish up more food.
  4. Keep your distance from temptation and put healthy food front and center.
    If you’ve put a bowl of chips out for your guests or you made your mom’s favorite pie, position yourself at a distance. Consider setting up a separate table for the healthier option foods or serve small portions and send the rest inside. The trouble of having to head into the house for another slice of pie may squash your craving. But you don’t even have to go that far. Wansink and his team found that just 6 feet of distance kept people from overdosing on chocolate. So, keep salads and healthy vegetables close by and place the bulge builders where they are harder to reach. And when it comes to desserts, don’t bring them out until everyone’s finished the main meal. You’ll likely be too full to eat too much, and serve the sweets on your tiniest plates.
By planning ahead and putting these simple strategies into place, unhealthy mindless eating can be eliminated, and you’ll be able to enjoy your Labor Day Picnic or any backyard BBQ without worrying about the #scalebomb tomorrow.

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Christy R. Hall

Christy R. Hall is a Wellness Mindset Coach & Emotional Alchemist. She focuses on helping people change their lives from the inside out. Trained in hypnosis, Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT), various Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), she has numerous skills to help clients achieve real and lasting change. Christy says, “When you know how the mind works, it’s easy to make changes.” Christy fancies herself to be a Jedi Master, a verbal Ninja, and a Mindset Architect. In her free time, she spins yarn (both literally spinning fiber into yarn, as well as, writing), crochets for charity, watches silly cat videos, looks at pictures of Corgis, and plays massively multiplayer online games. Her current favorite is Elder Scrolls Online.