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Five Tricks for Eating Healthy Portions

array of fruit with glass of OJ in the centerEating healthy portions is a good idea for reaching a healthy weight to reduce your cancer risk. The good news is that "healthy portions" can mean eating more delicious foods that fight cancer.

Whether a portion is "healthy" or not depends on what kind of food you are eating. That’s why filling your plate with the satisfying tastes, textures and colors of plant-based foods can help you avoid feeling deprived when you cut back on meat and high-sugar foods.

Researchers such as Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University and Brian Wansink*, PhD, Director of the Food and Brand Laboratory at Cornell University, have discovered easy ways to trick yourself into eating healthy portions with satisfaction. Here are a few.

1) Serve an Appe-satisfier.

Fifteen minutes before lunch or dinner, eat a bowl of vegetable soup, a green salad or fresh apple. Doing so can take the edge off hunger and reduce calorie intake from the meal that follows by 11-20 percent, according to research by Dr. Rolls and her colleagues. What’s more, you’ll be adding more cancer-preventing plant foods to your daily diet.

2) Portion Re-stortion.

Use smaller plates to reduce your portions or simply swap higher calorie foods for lower calories ones. According to Dr. Rolls, in her book The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet, eating smaller portions of animal protein, accompanied by more cooked vegetables and salads with low-fat dressing, can fill your plate in a satisfying way.

Fiber in vegetables makes you feel full and helps to lower cancer risk. Cook and serve vegetables with olive oil and season them liberally with herbs and spices.

The New American Plate is a great example of wise portions: fill 2/3 (or more) of your plate with vegetables, fruits whole grains and beans and 1/3 (or less) with animal protein.

3) Out of Sight, Out of Mouth.

Seeing means eating, according to a study directed by Dr. Wansink*, where office workers ate more candy when a clear dish of candy sat on their desk versus an opaque dish that sat six feet away.

The take-home message is to put extra food away in the refrigerator (or carryout box at a restaurant) before you begin to eat.

4) Trigger Me Not.

One cookie or slice of cake or pie can be all it takes to set off a bout of uncontrolled overeating. There’s no universal technique to prevent this. However, it may help reduce temptation to have that item in your home only occasionally.

You could also buy small-sized wrapped candies as treats rather than regular sized candy bars. Or substitute lower-calorie choices: a frozen ice pop in place of ice cream.

"Most off all, don’t fall victim to a sense of panic and urgency by telling yourself that you’ll never eat that food again," Dr. Rolls adds.

5) Set the Scene.

Dim the lights and play mellow music. These two pre-meal mood makers create a relaxing atmosphere that can encourage you to eat less food. That’s what Dr. Wansink* and his research team found when they tested these conditions at a fast food restaurant.

Interestingly, the subjects didn’t change what they ordered, but they did eat 18 percent less compared to dining under bright florescent lights with loud music playing.

No. 127, Spring 2015

*Update (October 1, 2018): At least a dozen publications co-authored by Brian Wansink, have recently been retracted in several journals, one of the experts quoted in this article, as the scientific validity of his research was unable to be independently validated.

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