How a fruit bowl can help your waistline

Dr Suzanne Pearson
November 2, 2016

We crave convenience in every facet of our lives. You can pretty much get anything you want at any hour of the day with minimal effort. Thank you Airtasker.


The joy of convenience, also comes with some challenges – like still fitting your jeans kind of challenges. Travelators and drive thru, we’re looking at you.

Good news: recent science shows, when harnessed for good – convenience can help you weigh less.

In a study published in the journal Health Education & Behavior, researchers set out to analyse how, rather than what we eat, with some intriguing results.


What your kitchen bench says about you

Researchers were curious about whether the presence of foods on a person’s kitchen bench were associated with their body mass index (BMI; a measure of body fat based on height and weight). The old seafood diet – any food you see, you eat.

FYI, the study considered households in Syracuse, New York, USA with at least one child under the age of 18 living at home.

“Be it a cookie jar or a fruit bowl, the visibility and convenience (accessibility) of such foods in the open kitchen space could induce a higher incidence of consumption, thereby influencing weight gain, loss, or maintenance,” suggests Brian Wansink, the study’s lead and author of Slim by design: Mindless eating solutions for everyday life.

Imagine if supermarket check‑outs were lined with carrot sticks over chocolate bars?


And the verdict?

Overall, fresh fruit was more likely than soft drink, cookies, cakes and muffins to be visible in the kitchen of people who were normal weight than those who were obese.

Surprisingly though, these results differed between genders.

Women of normal weight were most likely to have fruit on the kitchen bench – whereas, having fresh fruit within reach was not associated with BMI among men.

On the other hand, keeping cookies and other baked treats visible (mmmm treats) was strongly linked with high BMI, but only with men.

Visibility of packaged food like cereal, chips, or crackers had no significant association with BMI.


How did this equate to weight?

Alarm bells alert: women who kept regular or diet soft drinks on their bench or in other often eye-balled kitchen locations weighed 12kg and 11kg more, respectively, than those who did not. And having breakfast cereal in plain sight was associated with an additional 9.4kg in women. Yikes.

For men, having lollies conveniently placed was associated with almost 8kg more – whereas BMI was not affected by the presence of soft drink and cereal.

Finally, leaving fruit on the bench or in another visible kitchen location was associated with 6kg lower weight in women.

It’s important to point out that these results are correlational and only highlight an observational relationship. However, they offer interesting insight into how the visibility, proximity and accessibility of foods affect decisions differently for men and women.

The takeway? Move your fruit bowl to prime location, then get filling it.


Dr Suzanne Pearson PhD, MNutrDiet, APD, BSc (Hons) is the Global Scientific Affairs Manager at Swisse Wellness.