Overweight? Blame Your Kitchen

According to research in the Annual Reviews of Nutrition, everything from the size of your plates to the wattage of your light bulbs has a direct effect on what and how much you eat. Whether you're struggling to lose weight or just want to eat healthier, the first step is to make your kitchen work for you, according to Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

The following are some of the findings of the recent research:

Kitchen issue: Dish size. Since the 1970s, dinner plates have grown 25 percent, to 12 inches or more in diameter. Since people have a habit of filling up their plate and eating everything on it, a large plate size can contribute to weight gain.

Solution: Eat off of smaller plates. Eat off a plate about 2 inches smaller and you'll serve yourself 22 percent fewer calories per meal, which can mean a 2-pound weight loss in one month, says Brian Wansink, PhD, director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. Wansink says that if you plan to buy new plates, the best size is 10 inches in diameter. As an alternative, eat your higher-calorie meals (such as meat or pasta) from your salad plate, and your vegetables from your bigger plate.

Kitchen issue: Package size. Researchers have found that people prepare 23 percent more food when cooking from large containers and eat twice as many candies from big bags as from smaller ones.

Solution: Buy junk food in smaller packages. Even if you do your food shopping at warehouse grocery stores, you can help yourself lose weight and keep it off by buying smaller packages of cookies, chips, candy and other junk foods as a way to control portion sizes.

Kitchen issue: Cookie visibility. Research shows that just seeing tempting food makes people feel hungrier. It also causes the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that produces a feel-good sensation and may intensify a particular craving and eventually lead to weight gain.

Solution: Keep cookies and other sweets out of sight. Don't leave cookies around on your counters or in other generally visible spots. Instead, put them (and other sweets) in opaque containers and store them in an inconvenient spot. If you need a step stool or have to push past veggies to get to them, this may give you pause to reconsider your choice.

Kitchen issue: Your produce is hidden. While most refrigerators are designed with the crisper drawers toward the bottom, the issue here is that you never see your fruits and vegetables; and as a result: out of sight, out of mind.

Solution: Put fruits and vegetables at eye level. Keep your fruits and vegetables at eye level in the fridge or in a bowl on your kitchen table. Some fruits and veggies actually taste better and stay fresher longer at room temperature, including oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, and tomatoes, according to produce specialists at the University of California Davis.

Kitchen issue: Lighting. High-wattage lighting can raise stress levels, stimulating your appetite and cause you to eat faster than usual, according to research.

Solution: Dim the lights. Dimmer lighting can help you relax and slow down your eating. Between meals, keep the kitchen lights off. This can act as a subtle sign that says the kitchen is closed.

Kitchen issue: Counter space. According to Pam Peeke, MD, expert in nutrition, stress and public health, clutter leads to stress, which raises cortisol levels in the blood, increasing hunger. Furthermore, a cluttered countertop makes it hard to cook and as a result, makes it much more attractive to order a pizza or grab a few cookies to satisfy your hunger.

Solution: Keep your counters clear of clutter. Organize and store your cooking tools and utensils in accessible spots on shelves and in drawers to keep large areas of counter space clear for meal prep. Make sure not to leave your mail, magazines, or newspapers on the kitchen counter top. Designate a different spot.

Give these kitchen tips a try and experience the effect on what and how much you eat.


Kuzemcheck, S. Your Kitchen May Be Making You Fat. Prevention. Jan. 17, 2010. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34510129/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/. Accessed February 9, 2010.

Freeman, L.L. Organize for Eating Less. CBS News. April 11, 2008. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4008629n&tag=related;photovideo. Accessed February 9, 2010.

Turrentine, J. Are Our Kitchens Making Us Fat? The Washington Post. April 6, 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/05/AR2006040500757.html. Accessed February 9, 2010.