DIETING
October 26, 2015

The Kitchen Counter Diet

The weight of family members can be predicted by what's on the kitchen counter. Cereal? Snacks? Soda? Fruit?

Your kitchen countertop is a good predictor of your weight. If it’s cluttered with cereal boxes, snacks, and cans of soda, chances are you and members of your family are overweight. If there's a bowl of fresh fruit on your counter, your weight is probably in the normal range.

Researchers took pictures of over 200 kitchens to catalog the food items stored on countertops. What they learned was eye-opening.

“Cereal has a health-halo, but if you eat a handful every time you walk by, it's not going to make you skinny.”

Women who had cereal boxes parked on their countertops weighed 20 pounds more than their neighbors who didn’t, and soft drinks sitting out correlated with an extra 24 to 26 pounds. Women with cookies on their countertops weighed about eight pounds more than their peers. For men, candy was the biggest offender, linked to an extra 18 pounds.

There was some good news among the findings. Women who had a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter weighed closer to a normal weight and about 13 pounds less than their neighbors who didn’t.

“It's your basic See-Food Diet — you eat what you see,” said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand lab and author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, in a statement. “As a cereal lover, that shocked me. Cereal has a health-halo, but if you eat a handful every time you walk by, it's not going to make you skinny.”

How women shop for and store food is also predictive of weight, according to the study. Women of normal weight tended to avoid buying large, economy-sized packages of food, and they kept snack foods in a designated cabinet in the kitchen.

The study provides a new look into the role environmental factors play in the development of obesity. It also provides helpful guidance to people struggling with their weight: replace unhealthy cues with healthy ones. (Cues are signals to do something, and in this case the cue is to eat.)

Paying attention to where food is kept in the kitchen is an easy, low-cost way to keep the extra pounds at bay. Put the cookies, soda, cereals, and candy out of sight, tucked away in a pantry or cabinet. This makes them less convenient, and it’s less likely that they will be the “go to” food when hunger strikes. Place fresh fruit or other healthy snacks in an easily visible and convenient place in the kitchen. It’s just that simple.

The study is published in the journal, Health Education and Behavior.
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