The key to slimming? You need to have a plan: Healthy shopping lists, taking fruit to work and even thinking up excuses to turn down treats will help pounds drop off
- Studies show planning meals means people fill up on healthy foods
- Scientists asked 200 people how much fruit and vegetables they ate daily
- Sticking to shopping lists can help people lose weight
If you’re hoping to lose weight, forget about relying on sheer willpower – scientists say what you really need is a little forward planning.
Make healthy shopping lists, take fruit to work, and even spend some time thinking up excuses to turn down colleagues’ offers of sweet treats, and the pounds will drop off, they say.
The study focused on how people can boost their daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
Studies show that this leads to weight loss because you fill up on healthy foods and feel less tempted to eat fatty snacks. Psychologist Cristina Albuquerque Godinho, from the Lisbon University Institute in Portugal, said the key to success was planning ahead and motivation.
The researchers, from Portuguese, German and Polish universities, studied more than 200 people aged 18 to 50.
They were asked how much fruit and vegetables they had eaten on a typical day in the previous week.
The team also asked whether participants wanted to increase their intake of these foods, how they would do so, what barriers they thought they might face and what health benefits it could have.
People who said they would plan in advance how to get their five-a-day or more were much more likely to succeed in eating healthily.
Those who understood the health benefits of eating well also found it easier to change their habits, according to the research to be published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.
Planning was particularly helpful in unexpected situations, such as when offered cakes at work to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. Knowing what to say in advance made avoiding temptation much easier.
Miss Godinho said: ‘We found that having strategies in place to deal with a range of eating situations that could undermine good intentions is very important, and helps people to regulate their daily dietary choices.
‘Planning menus or taking fruit to the workplace are examples of strategies some people use.
‘Planning is a psychological process that helps people to make the right choices for them.’
She added that eating more fruit and vegetables had been proven to keep weight down partly because it replaced less healthy food.
She said: ‘You may be too full to eat the doughnut that would otherwise be a snack.’