Setting the Scene for Self-Control

Medically reviewed in September 2021

You know how information overload can wilt your decision-making powers? Well, the same principle applies to your diet.

Too much information -- in the form of snacks peeking out of the pantry, breads sitting on the kitchen counter, platters overflowing with plenty of extra helpings, and scoops of this, that, and everything else crowding your dinner plate -- makes it difficult for your brain to make rational, self-controlled choices.

Just as cityscapes can trigger the urge to explore, and gardenscapes can help your mind unwind, "kitchenscapes" can set the mood for food. Here are some suggestions about how to make your kitchenscape -- and tablescape and platescape -- trigger healthy eating choices:

Kitchenscapes: The foods on the counter, ready to grab, are going to make it into your mouth most often. So hide the candy in the cupboard and set out a bowl of fresh fruit. In your fridge, bring the produce out of hiding and package and freeze large portions of leftovers. In the pantry, keep only one kind of treat on hand and limit yourself to a small supply -- not the super family-size packs from the grocery warehouse. (Find out how using ziplocks bags for snacks can help you eat less.)

Tablescapes: Although seven-course meals are a mark of fine dining, it doesn't pay to offer lots of variety on your table. Present just a few options at dinnertime -- a main course and one or two vegetable side dishes. And nix large serving bowls -- serve only enough to provide each person with a reasonable helping. Package the extras in the kitchen before you serve the meal to yourself or others.

Platescapes: If you use a 12-inch plate, you'll serve yourself more food -- and eat more -- than you would if you used a 9-inch plate. Think small when choosing plates, bowls, cups, and glasses. Besides, small dishes take up less room in your dishwasher.

Bottom line: A plate, table, or kitchen with too much food is like Mount Everest to an explorer: You'll eat it "because it's there."

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