Do food cues really have an influence on our food intake?

Food cues can have either a positive or negative impact on our eating habits, but if we identify them we have a chance at eliminating them or coming up with ways in which we can replace them with positive food cues.

Holidays, events, celebrations and our family and friends may all influence the way we make food choices daily. They can have either a positive or negative impact on our eating habits, but if we identify them we have a chance at eliminating them or coming up with ways in which we can replace them with positive food cues. There is a way to build healthier food cues into our daily routine.

Some common food cues include the feeling of hunger, the sight or smell of food, certain activities, people eating or talking about food around you or emotions and feelings throughout the day.

Examples of these may include:

  • Hot-dogs or bratwurst with barbeques
  • Popcorn with movies
  • Ice-cream with baseball games
  • Smores with camping
  • Chips with TV
  • Pretzels with boredom

Tactics that may help you in eliminating or replacing a food cue may include keeping the food item out of sight or building a new association with a certain activity. For example, if you each lunch at your computer each day, you can make a rule that you cannot eat lunch at your computer and remind yourself with a note on your computer screen. If you have an afternoon craving for a snack at work, keep fruit/vegetable snacks available and do not purchase high fat and high calorie foods. You can also replace a craving with a short walk around, or outside of the building to shift your focus.

You can also try to change a habit by making changes to the environment around you. This can include eating with a smaller plate and bowl, using a larger water glass or jug, place the fruit bowl on the edge of the counter, place washed and cleaned vegetables on the front shelf of the refrigerator and avoid purchasing high fat, high calorie foods.

By recognizing food cues and making small changes to your food environment, you may have a greater success with weight loss, weight maintenance and the adoption of overall healthier behaviors for you and your family.

For more information read change of pace/cue elimination.

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults that provide education on the benefits of choosing low-fat foods and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. More information can be found at http://mihealthmatters.msu.edu/.

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