I was watching the “Secret Eaters” programme this week and the Secret Science bit is really my favourite part of the programme. This week it was about our perceptions and eating habits when it comes to so called “healthier” foods, e.g. reduced fat and low fat, reduced calories, healthier choice etc.
Majority of us would think that if the label says a particular food is lower in calories than it’s better for us. And somehow subconsciously we’d think that because it’s lower in calories, lower in fat it’s ok to eat it and eat more of it, too!
That’s what the Secret Science experiment has shown. Both test groups were given exactly the same cakes but the descriptions of the cakes were different – one group could see that the cakes were described as healthier choice with reduced fat content and the other one were tempted with the melt in the mouth, rich cakes. And although the results of the experiment were influenced slightly too much by a very hungry student who just went and ate a whole stack of the rich carrot cake, the experiment has still shown that overall the group with the “healthier choice” cakes ate more cakes!
There is also this perception that the “reduced calories / reduced fat” products have drastically less calories / fat, say maybe 40 – 50% less. But in reality they may have only 10-15% less calories / fat than the regular product!
Another and in my opinion more important issue with the “reduced / low fat” products is that when the fat is taken out what is it replaced with to compensate for the loss of taste? In majority of the cases it would be an even worse culprit – SUGAR! I’ve written a post earlier about the sugar with the heading “Is sugar toxic and addictive?” and the answer is – YES!
So people believe the adverts they see on TV, hear on the radio, read on Facebook about the reduced fat / low fat products being better for their health and keep buying those products and eating more of them because they supposed to be healthier! What they don’t realize is that actually the fat is not as bad for our health as long as it’s eaten in moderation and it’s natural, e.g. butter, avocado, nuts, seeds. We need good fats in our daily diet! However we DON’T NEED SUGAR! And we certainly don’t need the artificial sweeteners either!
Just out of interest, have a more careful look at the labels of the low-fat yoghurts and cereals you buy – where is the sugar on the ingredients list? No 3 position, no 2 or maybe even no 1? And how many grams of sugar there are in 100g of that product? Maybe 15g or maybe 25g? Well, 25g of sugar in 100g of a product would mean that if you divide a serving of 100g of that particular product, 1/4 of it would be sugar! 25g of sugar is about 5 teaspoons of sugar! Can you imagine eating 5 teaspoons of sugar in one sitting?
Here is a link to some more very useful tips from the Secret Science part of the “Secret Eaters” programme:
1. See what you’ve eaten
Previous experiments have shown that when we have no evidence of the food we have consumed, we eat 28% more than if we can see the evidence in front of us. So give yourself visual clues to help you track what you’ve eaten and you’ll eat less. So if you’re having a meal, leave the debris on your plate and if you’re eating sweets or snacks then leave the wrappers in front of you.
2. Downsize your plates
Research shows that if you serve yourself from a larger serving dish onto larger plates then you’re likely to help yourself to 56% more. So downsize your dishes, plates and serving tools!
3. Don’t get distracted
Studies have found that if you eat while distracted, you forget the food you’ve eaten and you can eat up to 288 calories more if you eat in front of the TV! So steer clear of distractions when eating – turn away from the telly, put down your phone, shut your laptop and focus on your food and you’ll eat less.
4. Take your time
If you insert pause points, something that makes you stop for a minute, you’re less likely to eat mindlessly and while snacking youll actually eat less. So take your time when eating and chose snacks that are individually wrapped as they have their own built in pause points which will make you think about whether you’re actually hungry or not.
5. Keep food out of sight
We’re much more prone to eat mindlessly if we can see and reach food and you’re likely to eat 20% more if you leave the serving dish on the table while you’re eating. So place food out of sight to keep out of mind and always plate up in the kitchen!
6. Choose the right coloured plates
Studies have shown that eating off plates that have no contrast in colour between the plate and the food means we eat 22% more than if we eat off a plate with high contrast. Select plates that have a high contrast to the food that you intend to eat and you’ll serve and eat less food. And of course the reverse applies – if you want to eat more greens try serving them on a green plate!
7. Avoid too much choice
Studies have shown that when presented with variety in taste, appearance and quantity, we eat nearly twice as much. To avoid overeating when variety is on offer, for example at a buffet, decide how many different things youre going to put on your plate before you start serving yourself.
8. Don’t assume reduced fat is better
Evidence shows that if you think you are eating ‘healthier’ food, you will eat 28 – 45% more calories than if you eat the full-fat, normal version. And don’t simply assume that ‘reduced fat’, means ‘good for you’ – some diet or low fat foods on average are only 15% less in calories than the regular product and can be higher in sugar and salt (foodpsychology.cornell.edu/outreach/low-fat). Lots of foods that are naturally high in fat are actually good for us; food like nuts, avocados, olive oil. Stick with your regular full fat food but eat less of it.