Slim by Design: Kitchen Counter Correlates of Obesity

Health Educ Behav. 2016 Oct;43(5):552-8. doi: 10.1177/1090198115610571. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


Background The home is one place where people can control what foods are available and how the environment is arranged. Given the impact of environments on health, the objective of this study is to determine whether the presence of foods on a person's kitchen counter are associated with their body mass index (BMI). Method In Study 1, a nationwide sample of 500 households was asked to inventory their kitchen and provide their height and weight. In Study 2, researchers photographed and catalogued 210 households in Syracuse, New York, and measured the occupants' height and weight. Main outcome measures for the study were BMI differences between households that had various foods visible on the counter compared with those that did not. Findings The presence of fruit on the counter was associated with lower BMI in both studies, but the presence of foods such as candy, cereal, soft drinks, and dried fruit were associated with weight differences that ranged from 9.4 to 14.4 kg. Interpretations Although correlational, the findings from these two studies suggest that when counseling patients regarding their weight, physicians also suggest they clear their kitchen counter of all food except a fruit bowl.

Keywords: behavioral economics; diet; family health; mindless eating; photography; weight gain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Fruit
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Obesity
  • Photography
  • Sex Distribution
  • Snacks*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires