Go ahead: Order a kid's meal, pack a lunch box, and chatter your way through dinner. These healthy eating habits could make losing weight child’s playBy: Hollis Templeton
If you want great diet advice, look no further than across the table at your seven-year-old. Sure, he’s probably constructing a volcano out of mashed potatoes and ketchup, but he also eats only until he’s full, skips the salt and butter, and squeezes in a calcium-rich glass of milk at every meal. His secret? He doesn’t know better—or, shall we say, worse?
“Eating is a partially innate, and partially a learned process,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Wallace, a clinical dietitian at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Young and school-aged children are still learning the skills of eating—experimenting with textures, using silverware, and experiencing new tastes. As we get older and already have those skills, we learn to connect food and eating with our emotions.”
Not surprisingly, guilt-ridden dieters and impulsive eaters are more likely to be obese compared to those concerned with cooking nutritious meals for themselves and their families. A small study of middle-aged women published in the journal Health Education and Behavior found that food attitudes like these were accurate predictors of obesity risk factors like BMI, body fat percentage, and waist size.
Fortunately, if you set down your BlackBerry and pay attention to your plate instead of your portfolio performance, getting back to basics can be child’s play. Here, we’ve identified seven healthy eating habits you should steal from the kids’ table. And don’t worry, tater tots, Goldfish crackers, and juice boxes are not on the menu.
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What helps kids build strong bones and teeth can help you knock down the number on the scale, not to mention fight bone diseases like osteoporosis.
Studies show that increasing calcium and vitamin D intake by eating low-fat, calcium-rich foods leads to more successful diet-induced weight loss. Israeli researchers who tracked the eating habits of middle-aged adults for 2 years found that those who consumed approximately 580 mg of calcium each day lost an average of 12 pounds over the course of the study, while those consuming 150 mg lost only 7 pounds, on average.
Calcium can also help keep pesky pounds from making a reappearance. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Drexel University researchers found that increasing calcium intake by only 100 mg daily—the amount in just 1/3 cup nonfat milk—was associated with 3.5 pounds less weight regain 18 months following significant loss.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends that adults ages 19 to 50 consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Guzzle down a cup of moo juice and you’ll bank 306 mg of calcium (93 mg for soy milk) or enjoy a helping of one of these calcium-rich foods:
Plain low-fat yogurt (415 mg per cup)
Cheddar cheese (306 mg for 1.5 oz)
Frozen spinach, boiled (291 mg per cup)
Frozen collard greens, boiled (357 mg per cup)
Tofu with added calcium (163 mg for 3 oz)
Broccoli, cooked (42 mg per cup)
Learn how to navigate nutrition labels and save yourself a headache in aisle six.
The Clean Plate Club is best left to the pages of a history textbook, alongside a portrait of creator President Harry S. Truman, who started the movement in elementary schools as a response to food shortages after World War II.
Today, in a world of value- and jumbo-size everything, including dinner plates as big as platters, eating every last bite could be detrimental to your diet.
Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab have conducted more than 50 studies on portion and package size and always come to the same conclusion: The bigger the package or plate, the more of a product a person will consume.
What does 100 calories really look like? Learn how to eyeball perfect portions with our visual guide.
One reason children tend to eat less is because they start with less. “Kids, depending on age, eat smaller portions and often use smaller plates compared to adults,” explains Lisa Hark, PhD, RD, a family nutrition expert based in Philadelphia and author of Nutrition for Life (DK, 2007). “This is helpful and an excellent behavior to follow to limit portion sizes.”
Keep calories in check by dishing up your meal in the kitchen instead of hauling serving dishes to the table. Also try eating your dinner from snack- or dessert-size plates, or purchase dinnerware with portion-control patterns. When you’re done eating, leave your plate where you can see it. Visual cues likes dirty dishes can help keep appetite in check and mindless eating at bay.
In a Cornell University study published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, graduate students were offered free admission to a chicken wing buffet at a sports bar on Super Bowl Sunday. Guests took seats at tables that were either being cleared throughout the evening or those where dirty dishes were allowed to pile up. Students sitting among heaps of dirty plates ate 28 percent less, suggesting that eating is done not only with the mouth, but also with the eyes.
Pick a protein-packed dinner to help you feel full long after the dishes are dry. Need an idea? We’ve got 50.
No, not literally. But mealtime conversation can help you slow down your race to the china pattern.
“There are signals that are sent to your brain to tell you that you are full, but it takes time for those hormones to be released,” explains Wallace. “While children learning the skills of self-feeding tend to eat more slowly, as adults, we might be eating so fast that we are already on our second serving before our brains get the message to stop.”
While patiently awaiting your satiety signal, Hark suggests taking seconds of veggies or salad, talking a lot, and putting your fork down between bites. Your waistline will thank you for staying in the slow lane. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island who examined the slow versus quick eating habits of 30 healthy-weight women found that eating slowly meant consuming fewer calories and drinking more water over the course of a meal.
Dodge the drive-thru and whip up a 400-calorie mini meal instead.
We all love multitasking, but distractions during dinner could cause you to eat more. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that watching television while eating impairs people’s ability to accurately estimate the amount of food they’ve consumed during a viewing session. Just how distracted? Cornell researchers who studied mealtime multitasking found that when people weren’t paying attention to what they scarfed down on the sofa, they underestimated consumption by 30 to 50 percent.
Although the benefits of family mealtime have been touted for years, they typically focus on kids performing better in school and staying out of trouble. But don’t forget that you can seriously benefit, too. “When you have an environment that is relaxing and consistent (like the family dinner table), but not distracting (watching TV), you are more likely to listen to your body's cues about stopping when you are full,” explains Wallace.
So set that TiVo—the cast of Glee will wait ‘til you set down your fork.
Belly laugh your way through the worst healthy food commercials of all time.
The hidden calories, extra salt and trans fat hiding in a takeout lunch can be just as scary as cafeteria mystery meat.
A safer and smarter option is a lunch prepared at home. Hark recommends packing fruits (extra for snacks), veggies, yogurt, and water with your meal or sandwich for balance. “I pack lunch every day,” she says. “You control your portions, selection, and it saves a lot of money.” (Let’s not forget about your time and sanity, too. No one wants to spend half of their lunch break in line.)
At work, an easy way to stay on track is to only eat items that come from your lunch bag. That means no trips to the vending machine or down the café-lined sidewalk.
Don’t be afraid to become a creature of habit. Kids always seem to eat the same things for months on end. As long as your meals are balanced and nutritious, monotonous eating can make tasks like budgeting calories and grocery store spending—and even digestion—a heck of a lot easier.
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Don’t think that just because you’re on a diet, you can only eat three times each day. Snacking starves off hunger, prevents overeating at your next meal and keeps your metabolism humming along.
Where snackers run into trouble is reaching for snack foods that the grocery store has labeled as such—chips, cookies, crackers and candy. Instead of being lured into a land of shiny packaging and convenience, opt for healthy foods in sensible portions.
Here, we’ll help you give unhealthy snacking the slip:
Pick one of these five powerfoods and let your snack do more for your body than tide you over.
Power past your afternoon slump by picking one of these eight yummy 100-calorie snacks.
Slim down with these fool-proof snacks for weight loss.
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