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Diets of the World: The Japanese Diet

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Portion power. In Japan, food is served on separate small plates and bowls instead of on one big plate. Diners take turns having little tastes of everything, Moriyama says. Serving smaller portions may be one of the best secrets for eating healthfully and losing weight. Research shows that when we're served more, we tend to eat it -- whether we planned to and were hungry for it or not.

People eat up to 45% more food when served bigger helpings, scientists from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign report. When asked to identify what determines the size of the portions they eat, nearly seven out of 10 respondents in a recent American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) survey claimed that the amount they were accustomed to eating was what determined the amount of food they placed on their plates.

This is both bad news and good news. Bad, in that it's proof we tend to eat without thinking. And good, in that it's possible to change the amount of food we eat. How? By becoming used to eating less. For instance, try replacing platter-size dinner plates with salad or dessert plates. You'll end up eating less, while barely noticing, because your plate will look just as full. Or try serving food from measuring cups for a week or so, says Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, author of The Portion Teller Plan, -- just to get used to the amount of food you should be eating. "You don't have to shrink all your portions, just portions of high-calorie, high-fat foods," she says.

A rice foundation. The Japanese diet includes huge amounts of rice -- six times more per person than the average American's diet, Moriyama tells WebMD. A small bowl is served with almost every meal, including breakfast. A low-fat, complex carbohydrate, rice helps fill you up on fewer calories, leaving less room in your belly for fattening foods like packaged cookies and pastries, which can contain heart-damaging trans fats. For extra health benefits, serve rice the Japanese way, cooked and eaten with no butter or oil.

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