We’ve got a bright idea for training your brain on how to savor your meal and eat less: Light a candle — and we don’t mean appealing for divine intervention. A study published in the journal Psychological Reports found that fast-food customers who ate in a relaxed environment with dim lights and chilled out music ate 175 fewer calories per meal than if they were in a busy restaurant setting. By lighting a candle, you create a relaxed eating environment, so you’re more likely to savor your meal and ultimately eat less. Pro tip: Light a candle when you begin your meal and blow it out when you’re done. This will signal to your brain when to start eating and when to stop.
Eat With All Five Senses
If you’re not using all five senses in your weight-loss efforts, you’re truly missing out. Putting some effort into the presentation of your meals can help make it more appealing to eat. In fact, a study from the Journal of Consumer Research found that people whose plates had low contrast colors with their food — like fettuccini alfredo on a white plate — ate 22 percent more pasta than participants with a high-contrast plate — like a blue or red plate. Preventing overeating can be as simple as playing with different colors in your meals. Add touches of green, red, yellow, and orange vegetables on your plate to get a variety of nutrients, textures, and tastes.
Practice Mindful Eating
Practicing mindful eating is one of the best ways you can prevent overeating and listen to your hunger cues. When you chew every bite of your meal and analyze the flavors and textures, you’re more likely to feel satisfied with it. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who doubted the number of times they chewed before swallowing ate 15 percent less food and 112 fewer calories over the course of a meal. That adds up to saving over 300 calories over the course of the day if you’re on a daily 2,000-calorie diet— which is enough to safely lose half a pound a week.
Another reason to stay present: Researchers have found that distracted eating can widen your waist. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who eat while watching TV, listening to music or reading consume 10 percent more calories in one sitting than they would otherwise. And distracted eaters go on to eat up to 25 percent more overall calories for the rest of the day!
Playing up the scents of your dishes can help, too. Adding savory, fragrant spices to a home-cooked meal can give the impression you’re eating something more rich and indulgent than it actually is. To help with digestion and cleanse your palate post-meal, enjoy a mint. When participants in a study sniffed peppermint every two hours, they lost an average of five pounds. Researchers think mint’s aroma can be a natural appetite suppressant.