It’s easy to overeat “healthy” food

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 8th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s never been easier to find wholesome, healthy food due to increased interest from consumers and a new focus from the food industry. Yet there’s a downside: Portion control is still lost on some people.

A recent study published in the Journal of the Association of Consumer Research found that some people tend to eat more if foods are labeled “healthy.”

Researchers at the University of Texas asked 50 people to look at pictures of healthy and unhealthy foods and tag them as filling or not filling. They discovered that people associated unhealthy foods with the thought of feeling full. Then they asked 40 other people if they were full after eating a cookie that was labeled healthy or unhealthy. All the cookies were the same, but those who ate the “healthy” cookie felt hungrier than those who snacked on the “unhealthy” cookie.

Finally, the researchers asked 70 people to pick enough popcorn to hold them over until the next meal. The popcorn was labeled “healthy,” “unhealthy” or “nourishing.” Those who ordered the “healthy” popcorn ordered and ate more of it than those who chose the “unhealthy” popcorn.

So what’s eating overeaters? The words “healthy” and “unhealthy” have extremes associated with them, and the researchers said those biases can influence eating habits. Yet calories are calories, and even the leanest, greenest food is unhealthy in excess.

The key is moderation. First, learn the healthy portions for proteins, fats and carbs — and stick to them. Another easy tactic is to eat from smaller plates. Research has shown that people eat less from smaller plates than they do from large ones. And slow down at mealtime so your body knows when to stop eating. You’ll know when you’ve had enough.