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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort

Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort

The first most common new year resolution everyone set is usually about his or her career. Everyone hopes and wants to do better in a new year compared to the previous – to get promoted, to close bigger clients, to grow your brand further, and to double or triple your income.

And I bet the second most common goal of many is to improve their health or to lose weight. In fact, these are simple goals to describe but difficult feats to pull off for many.

We all know in order to lose weight, we should take a closer look and better control of our diet- eat more greens, less processed foods, more fruits, fewer desserts – alright, you don’t need me to repeat these. It’s clear that we all know what to do, but…

How to do it? Making it simpler? Making it easier? And making it more effective?

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Make Good Use of the Optical Illusion

The Delboeuf illusion has long been known to cause us to misjudge the size of identical circles when they are surrounded by larger circles of varying sizes. The more “white space” around the circle, the smaller it appears.

Research[1] done by Professors Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum explored how a well-established optical illusion leads us to make inaccurate estimates of serving size, depending on what size plate they are presented on.

For example, research was conducted in a fitness camp where campers who were given a larger bowl tended to consume 16% more cereal than other campers who had a smaller bowl. However, campers with larger bowls perceived they consumed 7% less cereal than other campers, despite the fact that they were eating more.[2]

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use smaller plate

    What can we do to combat this powerful effect? Simply being aware of the effects of the Delboeuf illusion may not be enough to overcome it.

    The best solution to change our eating behavior is to design our environment by replacing the plates and bowls we’re using. We can take advantage of this visual “trick” by manipulating the plates we use to serve various foods. Healthy foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits should be served in larger plates to encourage consumption, while less healthy foods should be served on smaller plates to trick ourselves into feeling satisfied with less.

    By using a smaller plate, we trick ourselves that we have enough, which helps us to break the habit of overeating. At the same time, it will also help you to reduce a significant amount of food wastage since you will never make or serve more food than you can finish.

    Adjust the Triggers

    Habits form in a loop called the habit formation cycle. It starts with a trigger, then the routine – any good or bad habit – and finally the reward.

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    Most rewards for the unhealthy eating pattern such as overeating and poor food choice are heavily tied to the satisfaction of our taste buds. We love the taste and we crave it, and that’s why we keep repeating the habit loop of the bad eating pattern.

    get rid of the triggers

      But wait a minute?

      The best way to break a bad habit is by substituting a new routine to the habit loop. However, it’s hard for us to switch from eating chips and crackers to healthy salads and green juice. The alternative solution to break the habit loop is by reducing our exposure to the triggers. And the most common trigger of the bad eating pattern is the visual of the food. In other words, we usually only crave for unhealthy foods when we see them.

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      The best solution: make unhealthy invisible and healthy food obvious.

      • Never shop around or nearby the snack counters; spend more time around the vegetables and fruits areas.
      • Keep your snacks in a closed cabinet, or even better, don’t buy them.
      • Wrap processed foods, cakes, pizzas using the aluminum foil and wrap vegetables, fruits and lean meats using transparent wrapping sheet when keeping them in your refrigerator.

      Lifestyle Change Instead of Diet Change

      One of the core factors why most people fail to lose fat is they see it as a one-time event. When you search for fat loss tips online, most articles you see is about how much fat or weight someone loses in a certain period – usually short – of time. Then, everyone is fired up about what this person ate or what program he/she followed during that period of time to achieve that.

      However, losing weight is not a one-time event; it’s not a sprint race. There is no one magical program, solution, food, or supplement that turns everything around – poor eating habits, lack of movement, bad sleeping routine – and helps you lose weight instantly.

      Healthy eating habits (lifestyle change) > Fat-loss diet (temporary plan)

      When approaching our diet – maybe we should stop calling it diet, instead, our eating plan, we should all aim for a lifestyle change rather than the food choice constraints and diet rules. Define yourself as a healthy person; start adjusting your eating habits and behaviors to achieve optimal physical health for the long run.

      What is the best way to achieve this? Change your environment to change your behavior.

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      Dean Yeong

      Self-improvement writer and performance coach

      Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort Not Making Progress? 3 Ways to Get Moving Again what to read next What to Read Next? 30 Inspiring Books That Will Expand Your Mind 7 Best Ways of Learning Effectively 6 Counter-intuitive Methods to Make Your Life Better that No One Talks About

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      Published on January 14, 2021

      How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

      How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

      Meal plans are a great way to cut down waste, make shopping for food quicker and easier, and help you to stick to healthy choices. But where do you start? What makes a healthy meal plan for the week, and how do you know what to include?

      Firstly, there is no healthy meal plan that works for everyone. At different stages of your life, you will need different levels of nutrients, but there are some general principles that you can follow, and then adjust as necessary. Here’s how to create a healthy meal plan for the week.

      The Backbone of Your Healthy Meal Plan

      For the vast majority of adults, these practical tips should be the backbone of your meal plan:

      • A range of fruits and vegetables
      • Whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, brown bread, millet, bulgar wheat, etc)
      • Fermented food such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
      • Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, and nuts
      • Two portions of oily fish such as salmon per week (or nuts and seeds if you don’t eat fish)
      • A handful of nuts and seeds a day
      • Aim for 30g of fiber a day
      • Eat a range of beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
      • Drink approximately 8 glasses of water a day[1]

      Calorie Counting

      A calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1g water from 14.5 to 15.5°Celsius. This is calculated in a laboratory, by burning the food. However, the food is not “burnt” in our bodies, and people’s metabolism and energy expenditure vary, so it’s a very rough estimate.

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      The absorption and, therefore, how much energy is available for you to use, is also affected by how the food is processed. An example of this is sweetcorn. If you grind it down into a powder and make a tortilla, you will absorb far more calories than if you eat whole sweetcorn kernels. Instead, you will see most of the kernels untouched, in the toilet!

      Another concern with calories is that instead of thinking about nutrient quality, it promotes prioritizing quantity. For example, there is a huge difference in the number of nutrients you could consume in 500 calories of fruit and vegetables, versus 500 calories of ice cream.

      Also the number of calories you need varies according to so many factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level, that it is hard to accurately predict exactly how many you need. Instead, I prefer to recommend a general principle of how to balance your plate and a reminder to eat mindfully when you are physically hungry, not because of an emotional trigger.

      How to Balance Your Plate

      When thinking of your healthy meal plan, for each meal your plate should contain approximately:

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      • Fruit and vegetables (1/2 plate)
      • Whole grains (1/4 plate)
      • Lean protein (1/4 plate)
      • A spoon of unsaturated oil

      This will help you when you think of each meal to work out what to include and approximate portion sizes.

      An Example Day

      Breakfast

      • Overnight oats, with chia seeds, quinoa and milk or fortified plant based milk
      • A piece of fruit

      Snack

      • A handful of mixed nuts

      Lunch

      • Grilled tofu with a mixed salad and bulgar wheat
      • A piece of fruit

      Snack

      • Apple slices with nut butter

      Dinner

      • Chicken / tofu / salmon with miso brown rice and spring greens
      • OR vegetable curry, daal, and brown rice
      • OR stuffed aubergine with mixed vegetables and millet or quinoa
      • A piece of fruit

      How to Adjust Your Meal Plan

      There are certain phases when more or less nutrients are needed, so it is important to consider your changing needs.

      When You’re Pregnant

      During your pregnancy, you should limit oily fish to once a week, and only 2 tuna steaks or 4 medium sized cans of tuna per week, because of the risk of pollution.

      You should also avoid the following food groups:

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      • Raw or undercooked eggs
      • Unpasteurized cheese
      • Raw or undercooked meat
      • Pâté
      • Swordfish, shark, and marlin
      • Homemade ice-cream with raw egg
      • Soft-serve ice cream from vans or kiosks
      • Vitamin A supplements
      • Liquorice root
      • Alcohol

      When You’re Breastfeeding

      While you are breastfeeding, your body needs more calcium (1250mg), selenium (70mcg), and iodine (200mcg). Ensure that you include these in your meal plan.

      When Going Through Menopause

      Menopause

      changes your long-term risk of disease, so it is important to focus on items that help support bone and heart health. The framework above already sets out a diet to support long term heart health, but for bone health aim for:

      • 1200mg calcium per day
      • High-quality protein at every meal
      • Foods rich in vitamin K
      • Foods rich in phosphorus
      • Foods rich in magnesium

      Organizing Your Shopping

      Once you have completed your healthy meal plan for the week, you can save the ingredients that you regularly need to an online shopping list, in order to make repeat ordering simpler. Some recipe books also now have a QR code so that you can easily synchronize the ingredients needed with your online shopping.

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      Try to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables where possible, but canned beans, frozen, dried, and freeze dried fruit make great substitutes for fresh, retaining most of the nutrients.

      Final Thoughts

      Creating a healthy meal plan for the week may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a fun addition to your weekly planning, and one that will ultimately improve your overall lifestyle. Try to use the general feedback above and adapt it to your own specific needs. Enjoy looking for new and exciting recipes to include in your plan!

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      Featured photo credit: Ello via unsplash.com

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