We’ve been talking a lot about healthy diets and staying trim and fit. Most of us take this issue seriously and we do our best to keep a moderate, common sense approach to our food consumption. But there are times when we find ourselves eating for eating’s sake; popcorn at the movies, crackers and cheese while watching late night television, chocolates as we devour the latest suspense novel. Without realizing it, we sabotage our own good intentions and vow to begin anew. A recent article by Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, helps to shed some light on this phenomenon. According to Dr. Wansink, we make over 200 food decisions in any given day. Most of these decisons are subconcious and have little or nothing to do with whether we’re hungry. In some of his research studies which examine how external prompts influence eating patterns, he has some fascinating examples.
A group of moviegoers who had eaten dinner prior to arriving at the theater, were given bags of popcorn to munch on during the show. Half were given large bags and half, small, but in both sizes, the popcorn was stale. Despite this, the group with the larger bags ate a whopping 34% more popcorn. Another test involved perception. Individuals were asked which Italian sandwich was healthier; one from “Jim’s Satisfying Sandwich Shop”, or one from “Good Juice Healthy Foods”. Although completely incorrect, the sandwiches with the healthy foods descriptor were perceived to have 24% fewer calories. A test involving Trail Mix that was labeled low fat, along side the same product without the label, resulted in the consumption of up to 46% more of the so-called low fat blend. In all of these test cases, there was no correlation between either the intelligence or information savvy of the test participants. The ultimate conclusion gleened from these and many other test scenarios is that we are strongly influenced by the way food is packaged, labeled and served. Some of these studies have been credited with the development of 100 calorie snack packs, available everywhwere…brilliant.
Dr. Wansink suggests using smaller plates when serving meals, as well as not leaving temptations on display where they are both inviting and easy to get to. A tempting display of fresh fruit trumps a layer cake in the good for you department any day. When you return from your grocery shopping trip, divide your snack foods into small, reasonable portions. Approximately 50% of snack foods bought in large quantities, such as at a big box store, will be eaten completely in six days! Finally, we women are usually the “Nutritional Gatekeepers” of the family and, according to Dr. Wansink, we influence 72% of of our family’s total food consumption. Come on ladies. Let’s exert this important influence and keep ourselves and our families health and fit.