I have something to say to whoever invented the “produce drawer” in the modern refrigerator—thanks for nothing! How many untold oranges have gone moldy…heads of lettuce limp…and celery all bendy down there in the unseen reaches of that compartment?
Even if your refrigerator has clear panels, your fruits and vegetables are stacked on top of each other with only one layer visible. Meanwhile, what do you see clear as day every time you open the door? Mayonnaise? Large blocks of cheese? Leftover pizza stacked on top of jars of sugary jams?
I think you see where I’m going. Hiding fruits and vegetables in a refrigerator as most people do is not a good idea. That approach not only wastes your time and money as the food spoils, but it also deprives your body of the nutritional benefits of the foods.
So I am glad that some “clear thinking” scientists have discovered this: Putting fruits and vegetables in a certain type of bowl—and putting that bowl in a particular spot in your fridge—may help you eat more of what you buy.
And I think you’ll be pleased at how simple this new strategy is…
Researchers at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, New York, wanted to examine how subtle changes to our environment might affect our snacking habits. So they invited college students to come over late in the afternoon—hungry—and sit down in a kitchenlike setting one at a time. After each subject came into the kitchen, a researcher filled a bowl with either carrot or apple slices taken from the refrigerator and then strategically placed it either within arm’s reach of where the subject sat or about six feet from the subject. In some cases, the snack was put in a clear bowl with no cover, while in others, in an opaque bowl with a cover. The researcher told each student that he or she was welcome to eat the food and then left the room for 10 minutes. How much each subject ate was later tallied up.
Results: Subjects ate more apple and carrot slices when the bowls were nearest to them (within arms reach rather than six feet), and they ate more apples, in particular, when the bowl was clear and uncovered. In other words, even a very small difference in the amount of effort needed to get their hands on the food—literally the question of walking two little steps or popping a lid off a bowl—made the difference in reaching for, or not reaching for, this healthful food.
Given that only about 25% of Americans eat the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, finding ways to increase consumption is certainly important. I chatted with Gregory Privitera, PhD, a psychology professor at the university and lead author of the study, about how different types of containers—and where you put them—might affect how much healthy food you eat.
Based on the study results, Dr. Privitera suggests putting healthy foods in a clear, uncovered bowl and placing that bowl within easy reach. For instance, if the kitchen is where you and your family members tend to congregate and talk when you’re home, then why not keep a pretty glass or crystal bowl of fruit and vegetables right out on the counter?
If you spend a lot of time in or passing through the family room or living room, why not keep a bowl of attractive fruits there?
You might have one bowl for fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated—such as bananas, peaches, and pears—and another for fruits that will keep longer if you refrigerate them overnight, such as apples, oranges and other citrus. At night, this bowl goes into the fridge…in the morning, back out on the counter.
Don’t forget your “snackable” vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, celery and bell peppers. What Dr. Privitera suggests is putting them in a clear, uncovered, nice-looking bowl on an eye-level shelf of the refrigerator.
You can even do this at your office—keep an attractive bowl of snackable fruits and veggies on your desk while you’re at work.
What’s the worst that could happen—you get so full from apples that you have no interest in cookies or chips?
Source: Gregory Privitera, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, New York.