7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Trick Yourself Into Eating Healthier


Taking a whiff of fresh fruit before ordering dessert is all it takes to trick you into making a healthier food choice. (Photo by Getty Images)

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows how hard it can be to rely on willpower. But with some science-backed tricks up your sleeve, you can make healthy food choices without having to give it much thought or effort — or having your best friend to wrestle that chocolate chip cookie out of your hand.

1. Tap away your cravings. Spending 30 seconds tapping your forehead with your index finger may sound like a strange way to spend your time, but research shows that this quick distraction technique, called tapping, has a significant effect on appetite and controlling cravings. “When we’re really stressed out, food is one of the fastest ways to find relief — it becomes our antianxiety medication,” points out Jessica Ortner, author of The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss & Body Confidence. “Tapping is a stress-relieving technique that uses acupressure points, and when we lower our stress, we lower our cravings,” Ortner writes.

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2. Smell a pear. Taking a whiff of fresh fruit before ordering dessert is all it takes to trick youself into making a healthier choice, according to a study published in the journal Appetite. Study subjects who smelled the scent of fresh pear or melon for 15 minutes were more likely to opt for dessert with fruit than a calorie-loaded chocolate brownie.

3. Grab a small portion of your favorite treat—and hide the rest.
You don’t need to eat that massive handful of Hershey’s Kisses to quash your chocolate craving, according to research conducted by Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design and director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. Just a small bite or two will do. “Most people can be satisfied with only a quarter of the snack they typically eat with no difference in satisfaction and fullness and without feeling guilty after,” he says. The trick is to portion out your smaller serving, put the rest out of sight, and then distract yourself for 15 minutes after eating. The result? You won’t go back for more.

4. Look the other way during food commercials. Flip the channel when that commercial for high-fat, high-calorie food comes on (we’re talking about you, TGI Friday’s). “Research suggests that looking at images of high-calorie foods increases our appetite and cravings for these foods, which makes it difficult to resist the urge to seek out and eat them,” explains study author Kathleen Page, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine. “It’s hard to avoid being exposed to high-calorie food cues, [but] finding ways to distract yourself from high-calorie food advertisements, such as walking away from the TV during commercials, may help.”

Page also recommends keeping healthy foods, such as a bowl of fruit or cut-up carrots and celery, within easy reach at work and at home so you’re more likely to grab those rather than unhealthy snacks.

Related: The 10 Best Nutrition Tips Ever

5. Focus on what you’re grateful for. Even if you’re in only a slightly bad mood, both healthful eating and portion control can go out the window. “You’ll tend to eat about 10 percent more than others would and you eat less healthy food,” says Wansink. A quick mood boost, on the other hand, can instantly encourage you to eating healthier. In Wansink’s July 2014 study, before study subjects served themselves dinner, they were asked to say or write down one thing that happened today that they were grateful for, such as “I worked out” or “I didn’t oversleep.” “Simply saying one good thing was enough to dramatically shift people towards eating healthier foods,” he said.

6. Drink water. But not just because it’s filling. Drinking water with your meal may subconsciously influence you to make other healthy food decisions — including eating more vegetables — according to a study in the journal Appetite. Researchers found that the beverage you pair with your meal matters, setting the tone for how healthy or unhealthy your food is. Grab a soda and you’re more likely pair it with salty, fatty foods such as french fries. Have a glass of water with your meal and you’re more likely to eat vegetables and consume more of them.

7. Cut up your food. You’ll eat less when food is served in bite-size portions. When college students at Arizona State University were given a whole bagel or one cut into four pieces, students handed the uncut bagel consumed more calories. Having food split into multiple pieces may trick your eye into thinking you have more food on your plate, so you eat less.

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