Nutrition-wise blog

What's on your kitchen counter affects your weight

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. September 14, 2016

We've all read about how our environment affects our weight. We're quick to point to snacks at work, school lunches or fast-food as the cause of unwanted pounds. However, what most of us fail to grasp is that our "environment" includes our home.

Researchers have turned their attention to home kitchens to see whether having food out on the counter or table is associated with body weight. They recorded what foods were visible in the kitchen and asked participants to weigh themselves.

The study found that normal-weight participants were more likely to have fresh fruit and less likely to have soda out compared with obese participants.

Normal-weight women were also less likely to buy food in large packages and more likely to have a designated cupboard for keeping snack items out of sight. Women who kept fresh fruit on the kitchen counter weighed about 14 pounds (6 1/2 kilograms) less than women who didn't.

Conversely, women who had breakfast cereal sitting on their counters weighed 20 pounds (about 9 kg) more than those who didn't. Women who had diet or regular soda out weighed 24 to 26 pounds (about 11 to 12 kg) more than those who didn't.

Men had different triggers. Men who had candy in sight in the kitchen were about 17 1/2 pounds (8 kg) heavier than men who didn't. The visibility of baked goods (cookies, cakes, muffins) also correlated with a few extra pounds (around 1 kg) for men.

What does this study tell us? Having food visible in your kitchens may increase the likelihood that you'll eat it — just like it does at work and school. The influence of certain foods seems gender-specific. For example, men seem to go for candy and cookies, while women tend toward cereals and sodas (regular and diet).

Take a look at what's out in your kitchen. The study's authors suggest removing food cues from countertops. If you have to put food out, make it fresh fruit. Store other foods out of sight. Or take it a step further and stop buying sweets and sodas (including diet) altogether.

Let me know your thoughts,

Originally published November 13, 2015

Sept. 14, 2016