“Low Fat” Food Trap

According to Brian Wansink, PH.D and author of the book Mindless Eating (which I highly suggest), most people have a black and white view of food; it’s either healthy or not healthy.  I think it’s even safe to say that most people have a very scewed perception as to what is healthy and what is not.  For example, choosing Nabisco 100 calorie cookie packs as a side with your sandwich at lunch.  Sure, you’re monitoring calories better than if you were to have a regular cookie that could have 210 calories in it alone, but does that make what you’re eating healthy?  No.  Think about the nutritional value of those cookies and the processing they go through.

If a label says “low-fat,” chances are we think, ” Oh this is healthy,” or “It’s not so bad for me,” when in reality it could actually be worse. 

For example, Nabisco’s line of Snackwell’s fat free cookies are loaded with sugar and have only 30% fewer calories than standard brands.  BUT for some reason, since the label reads “fat free,” many people would assume this is a healthy choice & therefore feel better about eating it.  Feeling better about eating something because you think it’s “healthy,” often leads to overeating, therefore consuming way more calories than necessary.  The problem is that in reality, the fat-free version of foods aren’t necessarily that much lower in calories than the regular version so while you think you’re doing yourself a big favor, chances are you’re not.

Another good example: 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (referring to the regular version) contains 191 calories, whereas the reduced fat version contains 187 calories.  Awesome, 4 calorie difference.

The worst part about choosing “low-fat” snacks, is that people typically tend to indulge more because they think that it’s “healthier.”  Like I mentioned before, this is where the big problem occurs.

Hazzard County video watching study:

In Wansink’s Hazzard County video watching study, Brian and Pierre Chandin handed out bags of granola labeled either “Low-fat Rocky Mountain Granola,” or regular “Rocky Mountain Granola” to participants.  In reality, all of the granola was low fat.  Subjects in the study watched a video as they  munched on the granola, but those given the granola labeled “low-fat” kept munching long after the other group stopped.  After the remains were weighed following the movie, those eating what they thought was low-fat ate 49% more.  Even though the granola was low fat, this translated to 84 more calories.

Don’t let yourself fall into the “low-fat” food trap.

My advice: 

  • Often times, foods marked “low-fat,” fat-free” or “reduced fat” are packaged foods.  Try to go for foods that have a shorter shelf life and are not proccessed as much as you can (i.e, spend more time in the fresh produce section at the grocery store).
  • Try to be mindful of what you’re eating all the time.  Have ready made portion sizes rather than eating out of a bag.
  • Eat slow, give your stomach time to tell you you’re full.

Thanks for reading! : )


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