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Calorie control is not just about watching the foods you eat, but should also focus on environmental and behavioral factors. In a previous blog entitled “Does Cutting Your Food Matter When it Comes to Portion Control?” I discussed how behavioral habits during mealtime can decrease portion sizes. A multitude of studies have shown the impact of environmental factors on dietary habits. Some of the studies have found a person’s environment including family and friends can directly affect their dietary intake. For instance if their family consumes large amounts of fast foods and sweets they will likely follow suit. While other studies have suggested television watching during mealtime can increase food consumption.
A recent study published in Psychological Reports found the physical environment in which a person eats may play a larger role on caloric intake than expected. The authors transformed a popular fast food restaurant to provide softer lighting and music. These transformations did not change what the diners ordered, however it did result in them eating 18 percent less of what they ordered (775 calories instead of 949 calories).
Why would this help you may ask? The authors concluded they were able to create a more relaxed environment with the music and lighting. Therefore the more relaxed environment during the meal time increased satisfaction and led to smaller portions consumed.
Can these study results be translated to your home environment? Absolutely! Start thinking about the physical environment in which your family consumes their meals. The first item to do in creating a healthier meal environment is to insure the television is turned off. After the television is off you might consider turning on some classical or relaxing music. Next, remove all cell phones and written materials (book, magazines, etc) from the table that may cause distraction. Lastly set the lighting to your desire!