BIG Nutrition: How the Eating and Food Environment Impact What We Eat


BIG Nutrition: How the Eating and Food Environment Impact What We Eat

vegetablemktparisIn addition to taste, aroma, texture, hunger, relationships, and other personal and interpersonal factors, there are environmental cues that can impact a person’s food intake. The environment includes the eating environment (e.g., home kitchen, work, and community) and the food environment (e.g., groceries, markets, and restaurants). Let’s look at some ways to enhance your:

Eating Environment

  • Fill the kitchen (i.e., refrigerator, freezer, pantry, counter tops) with minimally processed food, placed at eye level, to help make the good choice the easy choice. Place less nutrient-dense foods out of sight and above or below eye level.
  • Eat foods sitting down and at the table.
  • During meal time, leave the food in the kitchen so the only way to have a second helping is to get up from the table. The exception to this rule….veggies. Bring these to the table to support intake!
  • Also, pack vegetables and proteins for a snack (e.g., veggies and hummus or guacamole, edamame and green beans, chickpeas and grape tomatoes).
  • Close the kitchen after dinner. Turn off the light and close the pantry door to conclude intake for the day.
  • Remove candy dishes from the office and substitute with containers that hold whole fruit.
  • Swap candy in cars, backpacks, and briefcases with nuts and/or dried fruit.
  • Since refined carbs are plentiful at office meetings or occasions (including kids’ sport practices/games), encourage, bring, or choose vegetable, fruit, protein, bean/pulse, or whole grain/starchy vegetable options.
  • If food is used as a reward or incentive, consider an option that supports healthful options (e.g., gifts or gift cards of fish/seafood, nuts, restaurants that have a Mediterranean focus or abundant vegetables options on the menu). As an alternative, consider non-food rewards, like music, play, ballet, or movie tickets; spa or recreational options; or sports store gift cards.
  • If you know that an event will be filled with less nutrient-dense options consider having a snack or meal before attending.

Food Environment

  • Evaluate whether there are triggers in the food environment that entice you to purchase less nutrient-dense options (e.g., food samples or displays). Knowing these triggers can help you set goals or strategies to minimize their impact.vegetableplate
  • Support established and occasional (e.g., farmers) markets that offer healthy options.
  • Provide markets or restaurants positive feedback when they offer more healthful food options, e.g., replacing the bread basket with veggies and hummus, offering a green salad or vegetables instead of fries as the standard side, and beautiful and enticing vegetable side dishes.

Some environmental cues are tough to work around (e.g., the abundance of donut shops for example), but some aspects of the eating and food environment are modifiable and can better support your goals (and your family’s) and efforts to eat well.

In case you missed it…..

Last week’s blog was about grab and go items for athletes.

BIG Nutrition Challenge questions?

See me after the upcoming WODs or classes:

  • , Nov. 6, 8:00 am & 9:00 am
  • , Nov. 8, 6:30 am
  • , Nov. 9, 9:30 am
  • , Nov. 11, 9:30 am

Happy and healthful eating,

Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN

[email protected]