At least once a week, I’m covered in crumbs. When you’re the parent of small children it’s almost impossible to keep all food completely out of sight. I clean up, but things creep back. Errant Cheerios or crackers under my couch or kitchen table are frequent sightings.
Unfortunately, experts say, it’s sights like this that can sabotage even the best diet efforts. According to a new study, having any food consistently visible around the house can increase a person’s risk of obesity.
In the study, scientists recruited 100 participants between the ages of 20 and 78. Researchers conducted a two-hour home visit with participants, interviewing them about food consumption and assessing the layout and food storage in the homes.
“The amount of food in the homes was similar in the study, but in the homes of obese individuals, food was distributed in more locations outside the kitchen,” said Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study. “That speaks to the environment being arranged in a way that may make it harder to avoid eating food.”
So what can you do to dodge waist-widening bullets? Aside from hiring an around-the-clock housekeeper (I wish!), experts say keeping all food (or in the case of parents of small kids, as much as you can possibly control) stashed and hidden in the cupboards and pantry is the first and best step.
And once you’ve done that, consider this: Keep your kitchen counters free and clear of food canisters (the contents of which will only beckon to you between meals). Shifting the food around in your fridge can also be a boon. That’s right, according to an avalanche of studies conducted at Cornell University, several simple, fridge-straightening tactics can help you fend off fat.
Stock the top and middle tiers of your fridge with fresh produce (prepped, chopped and ready to eat), lean meats and reduced fat dairy products plied with protein to keep you feeling fuller longer (like yogurts, cheese, skim milk). Hide fattening fare in the bottom drawers of your fridge and stock your side doors with lots of flavor options like hot sauces, spicy mustards, salsas and tangy marinades. Why? Flavoring meals with low or no-calorie condiments like these can help individuals feel fuller on 200 fewer calories daily—and can help them shed up to 18 pounds per year, according to a study from Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.