Playing Those Mind Games…

Believe it or not, you can trick yourself into healthier habits! Over the past couple of months, I have come across some excellent (and scientific!) tricks that you can play on yourself which may just encourage healthier choices.

A recent study in Environment and Behavior Journal indicates the following ideas may be successful at encouraging healthier habits.

  • The closer the food is to you, the more you will eat – Be careful though, this concept works both ways: if there’s a bowl of candy nearby, you’re more likely to eat more than if it’s far away… BUT, if it’s a bowl of apples, carrot sticks or strawberries, then just think of all the great nutrients you’re more likely to have!
  • Presentation of food also has an impact on the amount that may be consumed. In the study, when food items were presented in clear bowls and therefore more visually apparent, the subjects were even more likely to engage in eating them.

*Bottom Line: Place healthier options like fresh fruit and veggies in plain sight and nearer to you than any other foods, you’ll naturally be more inclined to eat those items first.

According to Martha Stewart Living Magazine, a study from Massachusetts General Hospital’s cafeteria showed that by organizing foods into red, yellow, and green categories (think: Traffic Light!), we can very quickly understand what is good for us, what is borderline, and what is a no-no, due to our familiarity with this color-coded system.

  • Placing actual color coded labels on certain items may be effective in influencing the choice on whether or not to eat something. The front-and-center reminder that something is good or bad may be enough to inform our decisions.
  • Take a few minutes to look at your own pantry, and identify what you would put into each category (Red, Yellow, Green) and apply the concepts from the first study mentioned above. Put the “Green” foods in your direct eye-line, the “Yellow” foods slightly farther out of reach, and the “Red” foods even farther. The more effort and thought required to get to that “Red” snack, the more likely you will be to think it through and determine that you may not want it after all.

*Bottom Line: Place unhealthy snacks out of immediate reach and use simple systems like the traffic light color code to easily identify which foods make better choices!

Read about some additional tips to encourage healthy eating in this article in Prevention Magazine.