For Calorie Control, The Eyes Have It

A little while ago, Coca-Cola launched a new look for its traditional, sugar-laden beverage that did not sit well with consumers. The “Arctic Home” cans featured the brand’s iconic, holiday polar bears on top of a white background, instead of the usual red one, designed as part of an initiative with the World Wildlife fund to help raise awareness and money to protect polar bears.

But the interesting thing about this, though, is that the cause itself has not created nearly as much of a buzz as the color change of the cans. Consumers were distraught, confused, and downright angry, taking to YouTube to hold “taste-tests” to demonstrate that the coke in the white cans actually tasted different than the red cans. But there was no change in the recipe, reflecting the huge impact that visual cues play in what we eat.

Now I do not suggest that you go out and pick up a case of coke, in any color, but you can use the concept of “eating with your eyes” to your advantage.

Check your plate size: We like to see a full plate of food in front of us but today, plates are 3 inches larger in diameter than they were in the 1960’s. When I moved to my apartment in Brighton, my 12-inch plates, with their pretty apple and pear motif, would not fit in my cupboards, which were designed to hold 9-inch plates. After a month or two of letting the plates sit on the counter, I switched them out for smaller versions. Research shows that plate size can account for up to a 1000-calorie difference in how much you consume at one meal.

Color matters: This is not just for kids — a variety of colors, particularly with fruits and vegetables, will ensure that you get a variety of nutrients. And if you struggle to get those veggies in, making your plate colorful will make them more appetizing.

Plate your food: Always plate your food, even if it is takeout. You are bound to eat more right out of the container than you will if you put it on a plate. It can be difficult to see just how much you are eating when you eat out of a large container.

Right proportions: Aim for 1/2 your plate to be fruits and/or vegetables, about 1/4 of your plate whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta) and 1/4 of your plate lean protein.

I hope these tips will help you control calories throughout the holiday season and beyond.