The kitchen is the heart of your home, but it might also be at the heart of your unwanted weight. Everything from the size of your plates to the wattage of your bulbs has a direct effect on what and how much you eat, according to research in the Annual Reviews of Nutrition. Here are signs that your kitchen is sabotaging your waistline — and simple fixes to get the scale moving in the right direction.
Your plates are platter size
"Most of us make a habit of filling our plates and finishing what's on them," says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, author of "The Portion Teller Plan." But since the 1970s, dinner plates have grown 25%, to 12 inches or more in diameter.
Eat off a plate about 2 inches smaller and you'll serve yourself 22% fewer calories per meal, which can mean a 2-pound weight loss in 1 month, says Brian Wansink, PhD, director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab and the author of "Mindless Eating."
Solution: Rethink your place settings. Use your salad plate to hold higher-calorie meats or pasta, and load your dinner plate with veggies, says Young. If you plan to buy new plates, the best size is 10 inches in diameter, says Wansink. "Any smaller, though, and you'll go back for seconds," he adds.
You love bright light
High-wattage lighting can raise stress levels, stimulating your appetite and causing you to eat faster than usual, according to research reviews. On the flip side, too dim is no better — studies show low lighting lessens inhibitions.
Solution: Many modern kitchens have layers of light sources, from under-the-cabinet halogens to recessed lights around the perimeter and a decorative fixture over the table, says Joseph Rey-Barreau, a lighting designer in Lexington, KY. When you're cooking, flip on as many lights as you'd like, but when it's time to eat, use no more than 240 total watts. That's the equivalent of four 60-watt bulbs in a four-light over-the-table fixture, for example, or six 40-watt bulbs in six high hats; with compact fluorescent bulbs, use 75 to 100 total watts.
The mail is stacked on your counter
"Kitchens often become dumping grounds," says Peter Walsh, a professional organizer and the author of "Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?" A messy space makes healthy eating harder because it's a lot easier to grab a few cookies or order pizza than it is to unearth a countertop and cook. Plus, clutter leads to stress, which raises cortisol levels in the blood, increasing hunger, adds Pam Peeke, MD, a Prevention adviser and the author of "Fit to Live."
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