As I tried to uncover “the truth” about healthy foods for myself over the last couple of years, I turned to the experts.

I read their books, have tried many of their eating approaches, and have attended conferences to listen to some data and experiences presented in person.

Because they all seemed to say something a little different, I began to review clinical studies and systematic reviews to help clarify the details and evaluate the data myself.

One thing is certain…the science of nutrition, health, and disease prevention is evolving. Although it is exciting to see what cutting-edge genetic technology can reveal about the human body and its response to its environment, including food, it can also be frustrating to figure out what to do with ever-changing data.

As I read and validate newly published healthy diets, I incorporate this expert information into my Healthy Food – Happy Genes™ program to help provide a comprehensive and flexible approach that can be tailored for your specific food journey.

To help you discover if one specific eating approach might be right for you (or your family, or your patients), I thought it would be useful to summarize the elements of some expert-written healthy eating books that I have read.

One blog will feature one of the following books listed here and will include a brief synopsis of the author’s expertise, the premise of the eating approach, and who may enjoy and/or benefit the most from the writing (and eating) style.

My summaries are oversimplifications intended to give you a general idea of the approach, to benefit fully from the diet I encourage you to read the entire book if it sounds interesting to you.

If you have an expert-written diet book that you think I should add to the list, by all means please contact me with the title and author.

Slim by Design

Author: Brian Wansink, PhD
Professor and Director of famed Cornell University Food and Brand Lab
Leading expert in eating behavior
White House appointed USDA executive director in charge of Dietary Guidelines for 2010 and the Food Guide Pyramid.

Dr. Wansink and his team performed some mind-numbing, but interesting, observations and data analysis of real people in real situations to learn about eating behaviors.

They identified 5 places that are likely to account for >75% of your eating habits:

  • Home
  • Restaurant dining
  • Grocery shopping
  • Work and office space
  • Kids’ schools

With this knowledge, they created advice on how to redesign how you interact with your eating environment so that you will be…slim by design.

The data and details in his book are fascinating…if you like data and details, heh.

The Approach

In general, the main concepts are based on food “visibility” and “accessibility.”

Make good food more visible and accessible and make bad food less visible and accessible.

For example, at home: put the fresh fruit in a bowl on the kitchen counter and move the bag of chips to the bottom shelf of the pantry behind closed doors.

Doing something similar at work, such as putting the candy dish in a closed drawer so that you have to think about opening the drawer to snack, will also help you reduce the number of bad calories you consume daily.

When eating out at a buffet, try facing away from the food instead of looking at it constantly while eating.

These small tips help you to start replacing mindless bad eating habits with mindless good ones.

He and his team also uncovered some interesting statistics about thin people compared to heavier people, and how their kitchens are set up, where they sit at a restaurant, and how they eat at buffets.

The book is packed full of all sorts of tips and tricks based on statistics of their studies, such as;

  • Eating off a large plate may entice you to serve yourself, and eat, more food
  • Putting a physical divider in the middle of your grocery cart and sorting healthy food in the front may reduce the amount of unhealthy food you buy
  • Sitting at a well-lit table by the window at a restaurant may stimulate you to eat healthier food.

These examples only scratch the surface of what the book has to offer.

It provides a lot of advice and examples of how to improve not only your home, but also how to communicate with your local grocer, restaurants, and schools to encourage them to create slimmer designs as well.

The Writing & Eating Style

Wansink writes with humor and includes heaps of examples as well as describes in detail how he and his team set up observational studies in public places.

If you enjoy reading about studies of real people in the real world, very general statistics, and you are aware that your unhealthy eating is more a result of bad habits, then you will likely enjoy and benefit from reading this book.

It is less likely to help you if you have an unhealthy relationship with food, you are uncertain what foods are healthy (ie, grains, beans, potatoes), and/or you are not quite sure how to cook healthier food.

I enjoyed reading Slim by Design and chuckled out loud through most of it. The data and results are really insightful, albeit from a bit of a voyeuristic (in the nicest possible sense) perspective.

His website also has a lot to offer.