AICR Health Talk
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Can something as simple as removing my candy dish at work really make a difference for healthy eating?
A: Research suggests that convenient and visible candy on office desks can influence people to eat more candy, thus consuming extra sugar and calories. So eliminating those prompts to eat even when not hungry can help limit those extra calories that can add up day after day.
One study, for example, found that women ate more than twice as many pieces of candy when it was highly visible in clear dishes on their desks than when candy was less visible in opaque containers on their desks, and even fewer when the candy was six feet away. The women in this study underestimated how much they’d eaten when the candy was on their desk, and did not have that added problem when they had to get up to get the candy. That may be because it’s so easy to unconsciously grab a piece of chocolate or other treat when it’s right in front of you.
A candy bowl in a communal space can be challenging. It takes work, but you can train yourself to adopt habits like eating treats only as a dessert at a meal or only if you take a treat back to your desk and savor it. Other strategies may be to ditch the bowl on the desk, keep a healthy snack like fruit at your desk and get candy only by walking to a vending machine or waiting to get it on your lunch break. These new strategies can help you cut back without the mental baggage of making something “forbidden."
It’s worth considering whether grabbing candy has been a mindless habit or whether you are relying on that candy for more energy or to de-stress. If you need an energy boost, try getting up and moving every hour or so. If you turn to candy when stressed or as a reward, consider non-food options like taking a minute to look at a favorite calming picture or do some deep breathing, perhaps even using one of the many free phone apps available to help.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).