THE BLOG
07/22/2014 12:07 pm ET Updated Sep 21, 2014

3 Healthy Eating Tips From Google Headquarters

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, according to a Washington Post article.

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 drop a size.

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

Google's Data-Driven Solution: In what has been 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, according to the Washington Post. 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, low-calorie fare like berries and baby carrots in glass containers, since an extra helping or two won't hurt your weight loss goal.

Dieting Trap #2: Choosing sugary drinks like soda and juice over calorie-free 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, according to the Washington Post article.

Within weeks, employees' consumption of the healthier drink increased by a whopping 47 percent. 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.

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

Google's Data-Driven Solution: According to the Washington Post, 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 -- and the subsequent weight gain -- 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.

Katie Markey McLaughlin, M.S., is a freelance journalist and grant writer, plus mom to a very energetic toddler. This post originally appeared on her blog, Pick Any Two.