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A Mindful Trick Could Trim Calories

Here's how to curb your enthusiasm for overindulgence.

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With its deluge of pies and creamy dips, the holiday season can be a dangerous time for diets, leaving people with extra New Year poundage to work off in the gym. It doesn’t have to be: A simple switch in meal-planning mindset can help people keep their portions in check, according to a study presented in July 2018 at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, a global conference for eating research experts.

Researchers from Germany discovered that people tend to eat smaller portions—therefore fewer calories—when prompted to adopt a “health-focused mindset” on the nutritional value of the foods they prepare. The instruction asked some participants to judge the food’s impact on their bodies and other participants to focus on the potential pleasure of eating the food.

The finding means that ignoring the great taste of homemade chocolate chip cookies and focusing on their calorie density could reduce the brain’s response to a food reward and lead to eating fewer cookies in one sitting.

People with excess weight appear to be particularly susceptible to selecting larger servings when in the pleasure mindset.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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