Eating a balanced diet used to be easy when you were little. Your grandmother put a variety of things on the table, you’d eat a little of each, and – ta-da – that was nutrition! Since then, eating’s gotten strangely complicated, with the Atkins diet, flexitarian diets, paleolithic diets, velociraptor diets, and so on. Each one makes a magical case for why we should only eat meat, or never eat meat, or eat only vegetables, or eat only bananas or grapefruits or cabbage and so on. It makes it harder to eat nutritiously than it was when your grandmother said, “Make sure you take a little of everything.”
In June we published interesting study in the medical journal Cureus that shows there might be an easier way for people to eat called the Half-Plate Rule. Half of their plate had to be fruit, vegetables, or salad, if so, the other half of their plate could be anything they wanted. Steak, bread, pasta, foie gras, Pop Tarts . . . anything. They could also take as many plates of food as they wanted. It’s just that every time they go back for seconds or thirds, half their plate still had to be filled with fruit, vegetables, or salad.
Could a person load up half of their plate with Slim Jims and bacon? Sure, but they don’t. Giving people freedom – a license to eat with only one guideline – seems to keep them in check. There’s nothing to rebel against, resist, or work around. As a result, they don’t even try. They also don’t seem to overeat. They want to eat more pasta and meatballs or another piece of pizza, but if they also have to balance this with a half-plate of fruit, vegetables, or salad, many decide they don’t want it bad enough.
Nobody likes be told they can’t do something. With the Half-Plate Rule there’s nothing you can’t eat. You just have to eat an equal amount of fruit, vegetables, or salad. At some point, getting that fourth piece of pizza just isn’t worth having to eat another half-plate of salad. But, most important, you’re the one who made the decision.
Interestingly, what we found was that although it's easy to understand the Half-Plate Rule, it's not alway easy to follow if the only thing on the table is pizza or take-out food. There have to be fruits, vegetables, and salad in the house before you can eat them.
All my best in half-plate happiness and health.
You almost have to be a Super Hero to make more than 3 changes in your life at any one time.
Over the years many people have asked me how they could eat better, snack less, avoid eating seconds at dinner time, not binge so much at receptions, lose their sweet tooth and so forth. One thing I discovered is that even if a person is given perfectly stylized, guaranteed solutions, even the most dedicated person has problems making over 3 changes in their life at one time.
That is why the Power of Three works. The Power of Three is finding three small changes you think would be helpful and easy for you to make to eat better.
The important thing to do is to focus at defusing your diet danger zone, whether it be dinners, snacks, parties, restaurants, or work. All you need to do is to choose no more than three small (100 calorie or so) changes in your daily food routine that you would like to make.
Why only three? Most diets fail because they ask us to do too much. Three small changes is more reasonable. If we make these three small changes, by the end of the year we will be as much as 30 pounds lighter than we would be if we did not make them. You start by first identifying your Dietary Danger Zone.
There are five Dietary Danger Zones that trip up most people (meal stuffing, snack grazing, desktop/dashboard dining, party binging, etc.). Most of us are guilty of all of them. However, at this specific moment, there is one of them that is most troublesome in your life.
The divide and conquer idea here is to only focus on this one specific area this month. Next, you choose three small changes you could make in that one area for 30 days. After that point, you tackle the next Dietary Danger Zone that is most problematic for you. It might be the same one or it might be a different one. You find three small changes to make, you keep them for a month, and after a month you can either stop doing them, or continue.
For instance, say that you suspect that meal stuffing is the biggest problem you have. Simply decide on 3 little changes you could make at meal time that you think could help you eat just a little big less. That is, changes that might help you serve less, or help you not go back for seconds, or eat a little better.
For instance, you might say to yourself that you're going to use smaller (9 to 11-in) plates, pre-plate your food before sitting down at the table, and use the Half-Plate Rule. You do each of these each night for dinner for a month. After a month, you go to the next most troublesome Dietary Danger Zone. You don't have to do any one thing for more than a 30 days unless you want to.
If you've decided which Dietary Danger Zone you want to tackle this month, you'll find lots of ideas on this website. Here's starting points for your home, your workplace, when you're shopping, and eating out. If you need more, Mindless Eating and Slim by Design have even lots and lots more. You might want to start your first month off by taking three daily changes off of our 10-point Kitchen Scorecard below.
It does not matter what changes you choose, just do not get over ambitious and choose more than three. The more you try to tackle right away, the more difficult it will be to keep track of them. The whole key is to keep this mindless.
Good luck. I look forward to hearing how it goes.
Two words can lead you to overeat a snack you don’t even really like.
Those two words would be “low fat.”
We’re living in a world of fat-free, carb-free and sugar-free snacks. Most of the time, if we think they are at least low fat, we think “it must be good for us” —even if the snack is loaded with sugar.
When Nabisco came out with SnackWell’s, a line of no-fat and low-fat cookies and crackers, they flew off of shelves, gobbled up by the people who believed they could eat them until they magically whittled down into a supermodel. Six months later and about 6 pounds heavier, the low-fat fanatics finally realized that these cookies had about only 30 percent fewer calories than regular cookies.
This happens all the time. Often the fat-free version is not much lower in calories than the regular version. For example, each low-fat Oreo cookie has 50 calories. The regular version has just over three calories more.Low-fat labels can lead us to mindlessly overeat a product with guilt-free abandon.
Take granola. Where low-fat granola is indeed lower in fat, it is only about 12 percent lower in calories. It does not take a lot of mindless munching to scarf down an extra 12 percent of granola, especially while thinking you are doing your body good.
In one study, a French colleague, Pierre Chandon, and I invited people to watch some commercials and a video episode of the “Dukes of Hazzard.” We gave them bags of granola that were labeled as either “Low-fat Rocky Mountain Granola” or “Regular Rocky Mountain Granola,” as we described in the Journal of Marketing Research. In reality, all of the granola was low fat. While people watched the video, they ate the granola. Those given what was labeled as low-fat granola kept munching long after the other group stopped. After the movie, we weighed the remaining granola to see how much had disappeared. It turned out that those eating what they thought was low-fat granola ate 35 percent more, which translated into 192 more calories. When we offered them low-fat chocolate, they loaded up on 23 percent more calories.
The low-fat label tricked people into eating more than if the product had a regular label.
The cruel twist is that these labels can have an even more dramatic impact on those who are overweight. People who are overweight and eat more than their thinner peers are in danger of really over-indulging when they see something with a low-fat label. The problem is that when we are looking for an excuse to eat something, low-fat labels give it to us.What’s worse than overeating a snack?Overeating one we don’t even really like that much. Few low-fat snacks are nearly as tasty as their regular version.So rather than overeating something you don’t even really like, enjoy the regular version —but only half as much of it.
Here are some tips, tricks, and secrets on how you and your family can be healthier and happier. They're based on over 30 years of our published research.
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