Three Easy Healthy Eating Habits to Start Now

What’s on your kitchen counter?

When you open your refrigerator, what’s the first thing you see?

Do you have healthy foods in your home? What about not-so-healthful foods? Where do you store these items?

Are your fruits and vegetables hidden away in the bottom drawers of your fridge, or are they visible and ready to grab?

I apologize if these questions seem intrusive. They may seem odd, but believe it or not, they are important, and answering them may benefit you and your family more than you can imagine.

The reason?

Where you store food CAN make a huge difference in your eating habits.

When I say CAN, I am referring to an approach to healthier eating that was designed by Brian Wansink, PhD., and author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.

CAN is an acronym for Convenient, Attractive, and Normal. Think of these three words when buying and storing food, and you just might find yourself eating more healthfully – with ease.

Dr. Wansink is the Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. His team analyzed 112 studies that collected information about healthy eating behaviors and found that most healthy eaters did so because a restaurant, grocery store, school cafeteria, or spouse made foods like fruits and vegetables visible and easy to reach (convenient), enticingly displayed (attractive), and appear like an obvious choice (normal).

“A healthy diet can be as easy as making the healthiest choice the most convenient, attractive, and normal,” explains Dr. Wansink.

ScienceDaily elaborates:

The study, published in Psychology and Marketing, shows that when fruit is put in a nice bowl next to your car keys — or when a cafeteria puts it next to a well-lit cash register — it becomes more convenient, attractive, and normal to grab a banana than the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in the far back of the freezer. When restaurants give the high-profit shrimp salad appetizer an enticing name, highlight it on the menu, and have the waitress point it out as a special, it becomes more convenient, attractive, and normal to order that than the deep-fried onion rings on the back of the menu.

From Cornell’s press release:

“With these three principles, there are endless changes that can be made to lead people – including ourselves – to eat healthier,” said Wansink. For instance, if a school wants children to drink more white milk than chocolate milk, they can make white milk more convenient (put it in the front of the cooler), more attractive (sell it in a shapely bottle), or more normal (give it half of the cooler space instead of a small corner of the cooler). In previous studies conducted by Dr. Wansink each of these changes increased white milk consumption by 30-60% in schools.

Here are some ways you can incorporate CAN principles into your life:

  • Place a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter
  • Keep fresh-cut fruit in containers and store them on the top shelf of your refrigerator
  • Cut up veggies and store them in a container with dip for easy snacking
  • Serve healthful foods like salads and vegetables at every meal
  • Store healthy snack items like Greek yogurt, nuts, and hard cheese slices in visible places
  • Put treats like cookies and candy in less visible places, like the back of the pantry (out of sight, out of mind)
  • Serve food on colorful plates, and use fun containers to store single portions of food
  • Bring healthful snacks with you when you are on the go

We already know that imposing strict rules upon yourself and “dieting” don’t work – and often backfire completely, leaving you heavier and less healthy than you were before you started your “plan.”

So, using the CAN method can help you set yourself up for success by setting up your environment.

Listen to Dr. Wansink explain this approach to Consumer Eyes:

What are you waiting for? The sooner you put these ideas into action, the sooner you’ll start eating healthier. And, if weight loss is your goal, you will likely ease the process by rearranging your environment in these ways as well.

Additional Resources:

Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

About the author

Lisa Egan

Lisa is a researcher and writer who lives in the outskirts of D.C. She has a BS in Health Science with a concentration in Nutrition. Lisa has worked as a personal trainer and nutritionist and is a certified hypnotherapist. She enjoys helping people learn about how to improve their health.

1 comment
Jenny - May 7, 2015

I’ve begun being very careful about food placement in our home. Sweets are stored on top of the fridge out of sight. Fruit right on the kitchen table. Easy access to yogurt and cheese sticks for the kids. Salad prepped every week.

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