Lose Weight with these Mini Meal Makeovers

September 24, 2013

You already know that eating a variety of colorful produce boosts the nutritional profile of your diet, but the hues on your dinner table can also help you eat less.

Visually bland processed foods like white bread and mac ‘n’ cheese tend to be void of nutrients, and research shows that these “empty” calories leave you unsatisfied and craving more junk. What’s more, an interesting study published last year in the Journal of Consumer Research found that the color of your dishware may also play a role in overeating. Researchers discovered that the greater the difference between the food color and the plate color, the less food people piled onto their plates. The reason? They concluded that a lack of contrast makes it more difficult for diners to determine appropriate serving sizes. Since dinnerware tends to be light in color, this means you’re less likely to overdo it with bolder foods like fruits and veggies than you are with rolls and pasta.

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The takeaway here: Including more variety in your meals is a no-brainer way to save calories and help you slim down. Add a pop of color to your plate with these mini meal makeovers, and you’ll leave the table feeling slim and satisfied.

Blah Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, hash browns, and toast. A plateful of beige isn’t stimulating for your brain or your stomach, so you’re more likely to need a larger portion to get your fill. To make matters worse, the empty calories will leave you hungry and vulnerable to mid-morning snacking.
Mini Meal Makeover: Add colorful veggies. Red, orange, and green bell peppers, spinach, and zucchini can help trick your brain into feeling satisfied. Plus, the fiber will fill you up and take the edge off your hunger, so you’ll want less anyway.

Blah Lunch: Turkey Sandwich. Same story here: Too much beige means you’ll likely devour the whole thing, even if it’s made on a massive hero (a likely scenario in your average American deli). You’ll also increase your chances of making a mad, mid-afternoon dash to the vending machine.
Mini Meal Makeover: Stack your sandwich with low-calorie colors. Lettuce, red cabbage, and cucumbers will complement the flavor of the turkey while adding filling fiber and a satisfying crunch. Tip: Add an orange or peach for a bright punch of color that’ll add just 60 calories and act as a safeguard against those alluring vending-machine chips.

Blah Dinner: Pasta. Whether you toss it with garlic and oil or marinara, a basic bowl of pasta doesn’t offer much excitement—or nutrition—which, again, can lead you to overindulge. Even if you eat only slightly more than you planned, the calories can soar: A somewhat-average-looking portion of three cups will set you back 600 calories!

Mini Meal Makeover: Mix protein and colorful produce right into the sauce. Carrots, broccoli, peas, squash, and a little shrimp or chicken all add diversity and give life to your meal, tricking your brain into feeling tantalized and satisfied. Plus, if you swap out one and a half cups of your pasta for this veggie and seafood/chicken combo, you’ll not only feel fuller (thanks to the added protein and fiber), but you’ll also save around 200 calories.

For more ways to melt fat with food, check out these healthy-pantry staples.

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse “Lyssie” Lakatos—otherwise known as the Nutrition Twins—are registered dieticians, certified personal trainers and authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever.