Eating New York-style

IN MANHATTAN, size matters, and in ways you might not have thought about.

Apartment life is cramped, and that is where I begin: with the fact that Manhattanites are thin and fit, at least in part because of circumstances. It turns out that my space, or the lack of it, prompts me to behave better, at least from a health point of view.

Because my kitchen is small, I shop for groceries three, four or five times a week. It's a time suck and means that my grocery bills are ridiculously high. But my produce, meats and dairy products are super-fresh, and I'm forced to buy packaged foods in apartment-sized doses.

Apparently that's key, because smaller containers lead to eating less, according to Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University.

Wansink has done hundreds of studies examining the ways that people eat, and his book, Mindless Eating, is something of a bible among Manhattan's nutrition set.

To escape desirable but claustrophobic apartments, Manhattanites try to get out as much as possible, whether it's for dinner, to run an errand or just for fresh air.

By definition, they have to walk or take public transportation to their destination, since only a quarter of us own cars.

One-fifth of Manhattanites walk to work. And when they're doing all that walking, they're not standing in front of an open refrigerator deciding what to eat, they're not planted in front of their flat-screen TV and they're not on Facebook connecting with lost high school friends.

They're burning calories and strengthening muscles. Meanwhile, because everyone else is out doing the same thing, no one ever knows who they might run into.

So people try to look good. When they go to Starbucks for a latte, it's usually not in sweats and a ratty T-shirt; it's in form-fitting jeans, a smart-looking jacket and lipstick.

Not every place on the map puts a premium on looks.

But Manhattan is headquarters to some of the biggest image industries.

There's beauty, from niche brands like Bobbi Brown and MAC to big Revlon-style firms. There's fashion, both retail and the design end.

The emphasis on looks affects how Manhattanites size one another up and how they think about themselves.

Manhattan Diet Secrets

Always leave a little on your plate. It can even be small, a crumb; just be aware you're doing it and watch it go into the compost.

Chunky is better than smooth.

Warm is better than cold.

Dilute! Use water, soda water, ice.

Never eat anything that comes wrapped in plastic.

Don't get too thirsty.

Don't eat anything that is disguised to look better than it is.

Never eat while in motion - walking or in a car.

Don't get really, really hungry.

Cut out diet fizzy drinks except when you have a sore throat.

Never drink coffee, even decaf, when you're hungry or at night! It always eventually makes you more hungry.

Eat a spoonful or two of peanut butter or almond butter when you're hungry.

Have a cheese stick.

Add milk to green tea. It tastes like melted green-tea ice cream.

Spread avocado thin, like butter, on wholemeal toast.

Drink warm skimmed milk before going to bed.

Drink red wine - that is, if you don't have a problem with alcohol. Unless it's fancy, dilute it with soda water and a drop of pomegranate juice - and even ice.

Eat soup. Melt a little cheese in the soup.

Before having a restaurant meal, eat olives.

Add peanuts, avocado, or cheese to salads.

Microwave an apple.

Microwave or steam all vegetables and add parmesan and/or olive oil. Eat them warm.

A good meal is not a big meal.

Stop before you're full - way before. Learn to recognize the sweet spot between not being full and not being hungry.

Buy small. Small bags of pretzels, small containers of yogurt, small everything.

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