Healthy eating comes down to more than eating itself. That’s because some unexpected things can play into a good diet – lighting, for one.
We’ve rounded up a few surprising factors, along with tried-and-true advice, to create an action list that gives you a smart start to a healthy diet. Bon appétit!
- Get plenty of sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation makes you eat more, especially fatty foods. That might be because a lack of zzz’s plays with the hormones affecting your appetite, according to a study last year in the journal Sleep.
- Turn up the lights. Being more alert might transfer to the table. A recent study in the Journal of Marketing Research showed that diners chose less healthy food when they were in dimly lit rooms. Brighter is better.
- Chill out. Physical activity speeds digestion, so wait until after you’ve eaten to rev things up. Beforehand, relax. Breathing slowly activates your parasympathetic nervous system, also called the “rest and digest” system. Take advantage of it.
- Plan. This doesn’t have to be an intense study in preparation. Just make sure you have decent things to eat in the house, so you’re not stuck last minute with no options and a grumbling belly.
- Be a snoop. Read food labels. “If you can’t identify a lot of what is in the product, it is probably not something you need to be eating,” says Laurie McGuire, RD, LDN, a registered and licensed dietitian with Unum and Dynamic Dietetics Inc.
- Snack mindfully. Treat your snack like a meal, and stop what you’re doing while you eat it. Also, put the correct portion on your plate or bowl. “This is better than mindlessly eating out of the container,” says McGuire. Finally, take snacks along when you’re on the go, so you’re not suddenly starving with nothing decent to eat.
- Use the plate method. Half of a nine-inch plate should be covered with vegetables, says McGuire. One quarter of the plate gets lean protein like fish or chicken, while the other quarter gets whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, she says.
- Enjoy. Take your time eating. This way you’ll know when you’re full. And one small reminder – with big implications – might help: If you’re reading this, odds are you live in a place where food is plentiful. That means you can eat again later today, tomorrow and so on. In other words, whatever you’re set on devouring at this moment will still be available later. Remember that the next time you’re about to overeat.
Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006. She was a senior editor for Yoga Journal and still does research for the magazine on wellness, fitness and nutrition. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.