Dietary Counseling and Consultations

Alternative Perspective

Box of Crayons

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD  

Nature is filled with color, and as I watch the vibrant changed to trees and plants, my thought turn to crayons, which lead to making choices. Do you remember when you got that first box of crayons? The first box of crayons came out in 1903 and contained eight colors, by 1935, a kaleidoscope of sixteen colors, 1949 the number increase to forty-eight. [1] This creative inspiration has gone from eight crayons to a bucket containing 200 colors in 116 years. How in the world is a five-year-old to make a choice? I can’t even make up my mind.

This isn’t the only area in our lives where the volume of choices abound; we have so many decisions to make over small things that it is actually increasing stress, anxiety, depression, and health challenges. The overwhelming number of choices in a bucket of 200 crayons can result in children and adults freezing with uncertainty, life just became hard, and just setting or ignoring the choice before us is more manageable than making the wrong selection.

As adults, it is easier to mindlessly surf the net, then decide on what brand of pasta to buy; organic, GMO-free, low carb, gluten-free, and so on.  This is referred to by psychologists as the “paradox of choice,” the fact that we have so many options, tends to make us feel “less” happy, not more. Researchers are finding that when consumers are given a smaller selection of jam, for example, to choose from, they end up more content with the flavor they picked. When given extensive selections, the reverse was true; consumers were less likely to be happy with their choice and questioned if they had made the right selection. [2]

Just like when we were kids, once you opened a box of 120 crayons, you were never satisfied with forty-eight again; the same is true when we are faced with thousands of selections in the grocery store.

Piggly Wiggly Self-Serve Market Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 by Clarence Saunders.

When the Piggly Wiggly opened in Tennesee 1916 [3] and later the King Kullen in New York in 1930, they contained around 200 items in their inventory. The average small grocery store of the 21st century contains over 4000 food items, and megastores can easily hold over 50,000. That is a massive increase for consumers to wade through when looking for foundational nutritious foods. [4]

Our sense of what we need has increased with all the choices before us, and we do not know how to ask for less. [5] This distortion of need is played out every day in restaurants, the need for smaller potions sizes for our health falls by the wayside when our meal arrives. Our resolve fades as we look upon a plate requiring sideboards to contain the contents.

Research has found that by reducing our food intake volume by 300-500 calories a day, it has a positive effect on hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular health, type II diabetes, sleep, sexual function, chronic pain, cognitive elasticity, gall bladder, and pancreas health. There is NO single medication available that can have comparable results on your health. [6], [7]

When I took a look at what consisted of 300 calories, I was surprised at how small of a portion we were looking at. Here are a few examples of 300 calories and how dropping just one of these snack items a day can meet the target without deprivation. Your hardest choice will be which of the thousands of snack foods to cut.

One Snack Size Bag or Container of, Cheetos Simply, Doritos, Oreos, Bagel Bites, Starbucks Moca Lata, granola bars, Kind Bars, pretzels, candy, soda, Icecream bar, energy drinks – I could go on like this for another paragraph and still not list all the “snacks” and ultra-processed items available for you to drop. Here is the important part, by losing two of these kinds of snacks, you can eat half a medium watermelon, or six medium potatoes, or nine apples, or three large heads of broccoli and only consume 300 calories.

When we had fewer choices in the stores, it was easier to eat better, and feel content or even happy with our selections. Each trip to the market doesn’t have to be a battle of wills and indecision if we keep our focus on our goal of 300 and how that can mean more, not less.


To Real Foods, Tradition, and Fewer Choices.


[1] The Way We Eat Now, 2019, Bee Wilson
[2] The Paradox of Choice, May 17, 2016, by Barry Schwartz
[3] Photo Credit
[4] “Eataly World and the Future of Food,” 2017
[5] Angela Palm, 2017 Hierarchy of Needs,
[6] Impact of Lifestyle on Health,



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