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Dim the lights at dinner

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

You can now blame your weight gain on your light bulbs, dinner plates and pantry, according to a new study in the Annual Reviews of Nutrition. It may sound crazy, but research finds that brighter lights increase stress which can stimulate your appetite. But before you dim the lights too much, you should know that low lighting lessens inhibitions.

The solution, according to Prevention Magazine, is to flip the lights on when cooking, but lower them to eat dinner.

When it comes to plate size, smaller is better. Studies have found that the bigger the plate, the more we eat. Since the 1970s, dinner plates have grown 25 per cent - to 12 inches or more in diameter.

Use smaller plates

Eat off a plate two inches smaller, and you'll serve yourself 22 per cent fewer calories per meal. Consider using a salad plate to hold higher-calorie meats or pasta and then load your dinner plate with veggies.

As to the pantry, if it's packed, it may lead you to prepare more. Think about it this way: If you have four different types of cookies in the pantry, you are likely to try all four. The solution is to break big packages down into smaller or single-serve containers. And be careful what you put out on the counter. Seeing trigger-foods can release the hormones that stimulate our appetite. It's best to put cookies in an opaque container or in a place that we have to reach to get them.

Put good-for-you snack foods - yoghurt, cheese sticks, fruit cups - in a container at the front of the refrigerator. Prevention Magazine says if you choose a fruit cup instead of potato chips every day, you could drop four pounds in six months.

My mother always had a saying, 'out of sight, out of mind' and it goes for sugary snacks as well. Make preparing and eating healthy food easier, and you are more likely to do it.

Losing weight

Q: How much weight does an overweight person have to lose in order to achieve any health benefit?

A: Even modest loss, without necessarily getting down to a weight targeted in healthy weight charts, can bring health benefits if you maintain that loss. Research consistently shows that a five-to-seven per cent weight loss - 10 to 14 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds - is enough to lower blood pressure, reduce risk of diabetes and substantially improve blood sugar and insulin levels in those who already have diabetes.

In the 'Diabetes Prevention Program' study, small weight loss decreased risk of diabetes. The HDL ('good' cholesterol) levels have been shown to increase, thus reducing heart disease risk, with losses of 15 to 30 pounds. In addition, overweight people generally report that even modest weight loss makes a difference in their breathing, joint pain and ability to get around.

American Institute for Cancer Research

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at www.creators.com

'It may sound crazy, but research finds that brighter lights increase stress which can stimulate your appetite. But before you dim the lights too much, you should know that low lighting lessens inhibitions.'