Eat Like Google: 3 Healthy Eating Tips from Google Headquarters

Eat Like Google: 3 Healthy Eating Tips from Google Headquarters

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Healthy Eating Tips from Google

Staff members at Google, Inc. are known for being some of the happiest employees in the world, and the internet giant works hard to keep them that way.

Turns out Google is just as interested in keeping their waistlines in check.

When execs notice their workers overdoing it on the chips and soda, they attack the problem the “Google way”: scouring research, conducting surveys and crunching massive amounts of data to help their employees make scale-friendlier choices. Here’s how you can use the tech titan’s research in your own quest to eat healthier.

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Trap #1: One handful from the candy dish quickly turns into two, three, four or more.

Google’s Data-Driven Solution

In what is being called “Project M&M,” the search engine leader analyzed extensive data on its employees’ snacking habits to determine how best to curb their over-consumption of the chocolately treat during office hours.

The results were impressive: The candy was placed in opaque containers rather than clear ones, and in just seven weeks, New York-based Googlers took in 3.1 million fewer M&M calories.

Similarly, in a 2013 Journal of Marketing study, researchers found that people are more likely to overeat small treats from transparent packages than from opaque ones, perhaps because seeing more of the goodies makes them tougher to resist.

Make It Work For You

When snack time rolls around, pay attention to your food choice and its presentation. Serve up bite-sized indulgences like candy in dark bowls to help you resist the urge to keep going back for more.

Likewise, showcase nutrient-rich fare like berries and baby carrots in glass containers, since an extra helping or two will only help your healthy eating goal. 

Trap #2: Choosing sugary drinks like soda and juice over the healthiest option—water.

Google’s Data-Driven Solution

The company, which provides its employees with complimentary beverages, rearranged its refrigerators so that bottles of water sat at eye-level while sodas lived on the bottom shelf.

Within weeks, employees’ consumption of the healthier drink increased by a whopping 47%. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health also reported that people are more likely to choose a beverage if it’s clearly visible on a shelf.

Make It Work For You

Do you own refrigerator shuffle: Prominently display healthy drinks like bottled water and unsweetened iced tea, and hide not-so-good-for-you guzzlers like soda and energy drinks. When you open the door, you’ll see the good stuff first and be more inclined to grab it.

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Trap #3: Helping yourself to a super-sized portion…and then polishing off every last bite.

Google’s Data-Driven Solution

To help reduce employees’ calorie intake, Google embarked on an experiment to encourage decreased portion sizes.

The company discovered that when both large and small plates were offered in the office cafeteria—as opposed to only large plates, as was the case previously—almost a third of staff members not only chose the smaller plate, but also resisted the urge for seconds.

In his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, food psychologist Brian Wansink explains this small plate phenomenon:

“If you spoon four ounces of mashed potatoes onto a 12-inch plate, it will look like a lot less than if you had spooned it onto an 8-inch plate. Even if you intended to limit your portion size, the larger plate would likely influence you to serve more.”

Make It Work For You

Prevent overeating by avoiding large, oversized dishes whenever possible; you’ll be less likely to serve yourself an equally oversized portion. Plus, seeing a full (albeit smaller) plate will trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more, leaving you feeling satisfied and less likely to dish out an extra helping.

What’s your biggest healthy eating trap? 

Had you heard of any of these Google experiments before? 

image via Simon

17 Comments

  1. Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 09:03:38

    I have not heard of these Google experiments, but it does make me incredibly jealous that their employees get so many great benefits (and probably a nice salary, too!). I get a drinking fountain and community fridge in which to put my brown bag lunch. 🙂

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 21, 2014 @ 09:33:22

      I was thinking the same thing the whole time I was writing this!

      Reply

  2. Kerry
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 11:17:37

    My vice is soda. I don’t do coffee, but that would probably be better. I just always find myself dragging around 2 p.m. I wake up so early, exercise and then go, go, go. By 2 p.m., I still have a few more office hours to go, and then I need to shift to mom-mode. I need energy, but I need to find a better way.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 21, 2014 @ 14:46:38

      I know that feeling when you just need a little extra kick to make it to bedtime! It’s tough.

      Reply

  3. lisacng @ expandng.com
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 12:24:17

    Google, what CAN’T they do ;). The opaque vs. clear container is interesting. I also like they keep the water at eye-level and the sugary stuff at the bottom. All of these can be applied to shopping at the grocery. Look at every shelf for healthier options :). I’d say I’ve got a handle on my eating since I’ve stopped snacking in the evening (mostly) and pack a lunch to work almost every day. However, I really need to work-on controlling my intake when eating at a restaurant!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 21, 2014 @ 14:42:50

      Ahhhhhh yes, restaurants pose a different challenge!

      Reply

  4. Wendy
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 19:16:20

    The perception that I don’t have enough time to make a healthy meal is my obstacle.

    Putting the needs of others before mine is secondary to that.

    I’ve learned to make mass healthy meals to help, and sometimes a video is just fine for our daughter while I eat a salad.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 21, 2014 @ 21:27:31

      It most certainly is, Wendy!

      Reply

  5. Tamara
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 21:23:45

    That’s totally interesting! And I’d believe it.
    Just in general when I worked in an office, I would eat the most junk in my life.
    Working at home it’s a lot easier. And of course, working long photo jobs – I eat NOTHING during! I get home light-headed.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 21, 2014 @ 21:26:57

      That makes sense…it’s not like you can stop midway through to have a snack! I’d be ravenous too!

      Reply

  6. Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 21:30:08

    I hadn’t heard of these experiments but this is really interesting! I do generally take a smaller plate at dinner though.

    Reply

  7. Tricia
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 06:29:52

    So interesting! Wish someone could apply such research to my day! I’m usually ok in the morning but my sugar cravings increase as the day goes on.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 22, 2014 @ 07:14:33

      Afternoons and late evenings are the toughest times for me too!

      Reply

  8. Melissa @ Completely Eclipsed
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 09:05:36

    I really wish I could work at google!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 22, 2014 @ 09:12:26

      Me too, Melissa!

      Reply

  9. Topaz
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 23:13:33

    That is interesting about the opaque versus the clear dish. I used to hate water and hardly drank any. Even though you “hear” it said that we should drink 8 glasses a day, it just wasn’t something that we tend to take too seriously. After realizing how dehydrated I really was, I learned to like water. lol I love it now and drink it all the time. Go figure. lol

    Reply

  10. Tarana
    Jul 25, 2014 @ 06:55:38

    Superb ideas, Katie! I always keep water on our dining table and that really helps us in having more of it.

    Reply

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