Researchers in Japan have raised that intriguing possibility. They found a strong link between a few key eating habits and a lower risk of obesity.
Their findings – and a couple more suggestions from nutritionist Nancy Farrell – make up a list of five eating habits that can help you lose weight and keep it off.
1. Slow down when you eat
A good meal should be savored slowly. Besides providing you with more enjoyment, slowing down might help you shed pounds.
The Japanese researchers pored over data from 60,000 people in Japan who were asked to describe the speed at which they ate: fast, normal or slow.
The study found that those who ate at a slow speed were 42 percent less likely to be obese than those who gobbled their food. Those who ate a normal speed were 29 percent less likely to be obese.
2. Eat vegetables with every meal
If you are trying to cut calories, eat a cup of vegetables at every lunch and every dinner, says Farrell, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Farrell Dietitian Services in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
"This is my all-time number one suggestion," she says.
For example, Farrell suggests always eating vegetables with pizza. This can be a salad, raw vegetables with a reduced-fat dip, or roasted broccoli, cauliflower and carrots on the side.
"This decreases the number of slices of pizza you’ll eat," she says. That will lower your calorie intake and help keep you trim.
3. Avoid eating 2 hours before bedtime
Snacking after dinner is hazardous to your waistline. The Japanese study found that snacking after dinner and eating within two hours of going to sleep three or more times a week were strongly linked to negative changes in a person’s body mass index, or BMI.
In addition, the researchers noted that earlier studies have linked these bad habits to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that – when taken together – raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
4. Choose restaurants carefully
It’s tempting to eat where the menu is loaded with crispy, fried and creamy foods. But doing so is a means of courting disaster if you hope to lose weight.
A meal should be between 300 and 500 calories, Farrell says. “That can be hard to do when we see 1,000-calorie pancakes offered to us, or a quarter-pound burger and medium fries meal at 900 calories,” she says.
So, search for restaurants offering more healthful fare. Google restaurant options and check the menu online.
5. Learn – or remember how -- to cook
Cooking your own meals is one of the best ways to keep your meals healthful – and to keep yourself slim.
“Learn how to cook again -- really cook from scratch, using healthier ingredients,” Farrell says.
This doesn’t mean avoiding fat altogether. But it does mean reducing fat, such as using skim or 1 percent milk and 2 percent cheese instead of whole dairy products. Also, choose lean protein sources, including nonanimal products.
Farrell also encourages you to cook with your children, and to use the time to bond. “Teach your kids to cook,” she says. “It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.”