These days food is available just about anywhere. Stopping for gas there’s food, driving around doing errands there are fast food restaurants everywhere, work meetings there’s food, and the list goes on and on. In these types of environments, it can be hard to say no to the pastries, sodas, lattes, pizza, and other high calories food items. Even your home or work food environment can be set up in a way that promotes eating. This article is going to help guide you in being the boss of your food environment in your home and at work.
Snacking, soda consumption and portion size has all increased in the past few decades , all of which can lead to an increase in calories and therefore weight gain. The simplest way to modify your food environment is to not keep items around like high calorie snacks and drinks, but this isn’t always an option. If you find yourself having these items in your food environment, you can remove them from sight and make them harder to reach. This is something that has personally worked for me. My fiancé loves to have chips and other snacks around the house. If I see them on the counter, I will eat them. I have zero self-control when it comes to eating these items. So, to solve this problem and take control of my food environment I put them in a cabinet where I can’t see them and they’re out of reach. By doing this I am not constantly thinking about them.
These tricks may work for your children too. When you or your children do eat high calorie snack foods, which is fine to do on occasion, eat them out of small containers or plates and not the container they came in to decrease how much is eaten . If you or your children are prone to snacking, try to keep healthier low-calorie options readily available. For example, keep fruit on the counters and cut up veggies in the fridge. You can also put together little snack packs with nuts, cheese, fruit, veggies, boiled eggs, whole grain crackers, or any of your other favorite healthy foods. This makes it easier for you or your children to grab when they feel the urge to snack or for a grab and go meal. For high calorie beverages try to opt for water, flavored water, or other diet options to reduce calories.
Similar methods can be used at work. For instance, don’t keep snacks in your desk rather keep them somewhere where you’ll have to get up and walk to get them. This can help you get steps in as well as deter you from eating the snack. Keep a small container in your desk to help you eat a proper portion size of your snacks. If high calorie beverages are readily available at your workplace talk to your supervisor or boss to get diet options and bottled water. If you work somewhere that offers lunch opt for the healthier options or if there aren’t many healthy options talk to your supervisor or boss about getting some. Getting other co-workers on board can help. Start a workplace wellness committee. Help brainstorm items that you would like to see added to your cafeteria or vending machines. You can also always bring your own lunch from home.
When it comes to food at meetings try to eat before attending, especially if they are around lunchtime. If you just can’t resist, then opt for half of what you would normally eat. You can also try to drink water, calorie-free, or low-calorie drinks during the meeting to help keep you from eating. Chewing gum can also help distract you from snacking during the day or from eating out of boredom.
When it comes to food I myself have little self-control. These suggestions are things that have helped me control and modify my food environment and reduce my consumption of high calorie snack foods and drinks. I hope these can help you as well!
 Rosenkranz, R. R., & Dzewaltowski, D. A. “Model of the home food environment pertaining to childhood obesity”, Nutrition Reviews, vol. 66, No. 3, pp. 123-140, March 2008, doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00017.x
 Vermote, M., Versele, V., Stok, M., Mullie, P., D’Hondt, E., Deforche, B., Clarys, P., & Deliens, T. “The effect of a portion size intervention on French fries consumption, plate waste, satiety, and compensatory caloric intake: an on-campus restaurant experiment”, Nutrition Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-018-0352-z
*This article was written as part of an assignment in the Middle Tennessee State University’s graduate level course, NFS 6600/7600– Nutrition and Obesity, taught by Dr. Elizabeth Smith, RDN, LD.
Photo credit: Lorna Dancey/Lorna Dancey Photography