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Good eating habits a matter of conscious choices

By Beth Cecil
Owensboro Health HealthPark dietician

For years there was an ongoing joke between my mother and me. Anytime I felt I had overeaten, was feeling full or had gained a few pounds, I would announce “Monday I am going to start my diet!”

This past weekend, my brother, sister and their spouses were in town and, after stuffing ourselves on a wonderful meal at my parent’s house, I again made my famous proclamation: “Monday I am going to start my diet!”

Of course we all got a big laugh not only at the familiar comment, but also at the fact, that now I should know much better. Just as I tell my patients, we don’t need to go on a “diet”.  We need to cut back on our portions and make healthy and conscious choices when it comes to eating.

Part of making conscious choices means being aware of some the common pitfalls that can lure you into overeating and sabotage your weight management attempts. Read on to learn about some of these traps.

Eating meals in front of the TV can easily cause you to overeat. 

The distraction may actually cause you to lose track of how much you are eating. One study found that kids who ate meals in front of the television consumed an average of 228 more calories than those who did not. The next time your favorite show is on during dinnertime, record it while you sit down at the table and enjoy your meal. 

Family meals are wonderful and studies show that kids who eat meals with their families actually maintain healthier weights. However, family-style dining, where all the food is placed on the table, can be dangerous when it comes to weight management. The food on the table just calls out to be eaten, often leading you to eat second and third servings. Instead, serve yourself from the stove and limit yourself to just one portion. Any leftovers can then be saved for another meal.

Another good tool for weight management is the food label. 

However, things like “reduced-fat” or “sugar-free” do not mean you can eat all you want. In fact, some things that are reduced in fat may have more sugar and visa- versa. Paying close attention to the calorie content and adhering to specific serving sizes can be a more effective way to manage your intake.

And while we are looking at serving sizes, remember to pay special attention when you buy things in bulk. I am all in favor of purchasing larger portions if it means saving money. But big packages may lead some people to eat big portions. When buying foods in bulk, break them down into smaller containers for storage, serving and of course eating.

Did you know that colors play a role in your appetite? 

Bold colors, like red can actually help stimulate appetite. Restaurants, especially fast food, love bright colors for this very reason. If you want to help control your hunger, pick out some blue plates, placemats or flowers for your kitchen, as experts believe a calming color like blue may actually suppress your appetite.

Another tactic commonly used to increase appetite is cool temperatures. How many times have you practically frozen to death in the theater or a restaurant? Your body craves food to stay warm. Push your thermostat up a little to curve your appetite at home. And the next time you go out, make sure to grab a coat or sweater.

And finally...

I can’t talk about weight management with mentioning one of the Golden Rules in my opinion, which is exercise. Being active for at least 30 minutes a day is easy this time of the year and is a great way to work off calories (and frustration) when you do feel like you have overindulged. 

Other Columns by Beth

Read other articles by Beth

Meet Our Dietitian

At Owensboro Health, you’ll get nutrition counseling from a registered nutritionist — an expert in medical nutrition therapy. Beth Cecil, RDN, LD (right), is certified in food allergy management and is a Lifestyle Coach for the Diabetes Prevention Program. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Childhood and Adolescent Management, so you can trust her to care for your or your loved one’s specialized needs.