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Even with healthy foods watch your serves!

If a food is healthy we can eat as much of it as we like right? No! If you are trying to lose weight you need to monitor both the health of your foods but also, and perhaps more importantly, the quantity you eat....

serve sizeIt's one thing for something to be considered healthy, but it's another for it to be low in calories for a normal serve and therefore helpful to losing weight. A lot of people make the mistake of over eating 'healthy' foods to an excess that causes them to gain weight. Some common examples are: bread, cereals, some fruit such as bananas, some vegetables such as potatoes, nuts and nut spreads like peanut butter, and low fat products such as icecream or cheese.

For example, even if low fat icecream contains healthy levels of saturated or trans fats having a large plate will give you a calorie imbalance that in the long term will cause weight gain. So while it is preferable to eat these 'healthy' foods you must also be aware of the calorie intake and serving sizes you are having.

This problem was highlighted in a recent study at the University of Illinois. Professor Brian Wansink says: "While many people will only focus on the fat content of a particular food, it is important to examine how that food influences the consumption of companion foods."

Prof. Wansink observed the eating habits of 341 diners at two Italian restaurants over a number of nights. When diners arrived at each restaurant, they were provided with either a dish of 66 grams of olive oil or half a stick (66 grams) of soft block butter next to their plates and all diners received six pieces of machine-cut Italian bread. After the meals, Prof. Wansink and his student assistants weighed the butter or olive oil remaining, along with the bread.

butter serveThe researchers found that people offered olive oil consumed more oil on each piece of bread than those given butter. This resulted in 44 calories of fat per slice of bread with olive oil compared with 33 calories of fat for bread and butter. Even though the fat in olive oil is widely regarded as more healthy than the fat in butter, "fat is still bad for Americans," Wansink said, "and consuming that much olive oil can trade off some of its benefits as a substitute for butter." "As a liquid product, it is hard to control how much you actually use as compared to butter that is spread on with a knife." Many diners reported that bread dipped in olive oil was "more filling."

A related finding was that nearly all of those queried in exit interviews underestimated how much bread they ate. "This underestimation tendency is a consistent and well-documented phenomenon in consumption research, often occurring because most adults simply do not monitor their consumption and are unaware of the forces that influence them," Prof. Wansink reported.

He suggested people should spend less time obsessing over the specific fat content of a single item and spend more time observing their total food selection and intake.

Reference: Wansink B, Linder LR (2003) Interactions between forms of fat consumption and restaurant bread consumption. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 27: 866-868.

Also see our article on spreads: Margarine vs Butter

To find out more about eating well and your individual nutritional needs contact us!


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