Time to dine smarter

When you sit down to a delicious meal, the last thing you want to think about is counting calories. But with a little creativity, you can trick yourself into eating less. When it comes to eating better, less is definitely more.

Things that are really good don't need to be gigantic. That's why espresso is served in a "shot" rather than a "Big Gulp," and truffles are bite-sized instead of supersized. Unfortunately, most of us have lost sight of this and think bigger is always better.

Downsizing your portions is not difficult if you approach your food in this way. Here are a few strategies to help you go for quality over quantity:

• Pay attention to your food, and savour every bite. Eat sitting down, but not in your car or while watching X-Factor. It's a lot easier to mindlessly wolf down enough food to feed a small army when you're not paying attention to your food.

• Converse over your meal and have fun. This in turn will slow you down, which is good since it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you've eaten enough.

• Cook more. Get to know what real food tastes like - cooking from scratch doesn't have to be difficult. You'll find that spending time in the kitchen gives you a greater appreciation of what you're eating. Plus, your house will smell wonderful.

So much goes on around the table while you're eating, and so much of it can affect your appetite. Subtle cues like lights, temperature, aromas, the shape of a wine glass, a whiff of espresso, can all tempt you to overindulge.

But a recent analysis of dozens of studies on "food ambience" (those factors around you that tickle the senses) suggests you don't have to give in. Instead, experts say, you can make the environment work for your waistline.

Here's how:

Look before you eat: The brighter the lights, the quicker you'll eat. Physiologically speaking, light intensity revs up the nervous system, and you'll often respond by eating too fast.

Result: You'll end up stuffing your stomach before your brain can tell you that you're full.

Unfortunately, dim lighting is no solution, because it can hide signals of satiety. We lose track of what we have eaten. That's why people tend to eat more in candlelit restaurants; they linger, picking at their plates even if they're full.

The antidote: If you have to eat in a brightly lit restaurant like a fast-food joint, eat slowly. In dimly lit restaurants with more romantic settings, pick one: drink, starter or dessert. Keep yourself attuned to your feelings of fullness. When you’re full ask your waiter to take away the plates so that you don’t continue to pick.

Dine on the patio: As a general rule, the hotter the climate the less people eat. Heat slows down your metabolism so your energy needs and your hunger decline as the mercury rises. Use that to your benefit.

The smart strategy: Ask for an outdoor table whenever the weather cooperates. Out where it's balmy, people seem to prefer food that's less dense and usually less caloric (salads instead of mashed potatoes, for example).

Tame your tableware: Supersized portions can make you think bigger is normal. That may override your "I'm full now" body sensors. Just as influential are the size of your plate and the shape of your cup. It's called the size-contrast effect. Bigger plates trick people into believing they're getting smaller servings.

So do short, fat glasses. Even bartenders -- renowned for their ability to eyeball a shot of alcohol accurately -will fill a shorter glass with up to 31 percent more than they pour into a tall, narrow one.

The solution: Avoid jumbo plates, and choose taller, thinner glasses.

Play hard to get: People tend to eat almost everything you put in front of them. Convenience is one of the strongest triggers for overeating and snacking.

The answer: At family gatherings and other occasions when overeating is likely, serve the food and then put the serving platters on the counter or even in another room. Buy fewer ready-to-eat snacks so you'll have to work harder to nibble when you're not hungry.

Parcel out snacks into single-serving resealable bags and avoid buying food in bulk. What if you just can't resist the buy-one-get-one-free offer on biscuits? Stow away the extras in the back of the cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind, out of body.

Every meal can't be a fine dining experience but if you think more about what and how you're eating you'll be more likely to eat less and enjoy it more.

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.