PBS's 'In Defense of Food' features Cornell Professor and Lansing High School

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“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

With that, food journalist Michael Pollan answers one of the most frequently asked questions of our time – what should we eat to be healthy?

In the new PBS show In Defense of Food (check out our preview), Pollan takes us on a journey through the American food system, showing what and how we make up our diet. Later, he shows us how young and brilliant minds alike approach food and eating in crafty new ways, including vocational schools, camps and cafeteria changes for youth and research studies on the dynamics of how we eat at universities.

And that’s where Cornell University and Lansing High School come in.

Brian Wansink, Professor of Marketing at Cornell University and the author of Slim By Design and Mindless Eating, studies how simple mechanics of mealtime effect our food choices.

In the show, Pollan says, “Brian Wansink is an expert on eating behavior. He’s discovered we’re often not aware of why we eat as much as we do. Sometimes it’s because of something we don’t give the slightest thought to. Like the size of our plate.”

Wansink describes how, when presented a larger plate, we dish ourselves larger portions; when we have see a smaller plate, we take smaller portions.

Wansink has teamed up with Sandi Swearingen, director of food services at the Lansing Central School District, to test these ideas in schools.

In In Defense of Food, Wansink and Swearingen demonstrate the power of food presentation and ordering – when we see healthy choices (like carrots) first and less healthy choices (like cheese quesadillas) second, we will usually select more of the healthy food and less of the unhealthy.

Watch the show now, and see those two smart cookies in action! The segment with Wansink begins around the 1:31:00 mark, and the segment with Swearingen begins around 1:34:00 (but we recommend watching the whole thing!).

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