Thursday, May 13

Health Halo

You’re standing in line at the coffee shop and your will is iron! You’re looking that pastry case up and down, but you’re resolute that you’re just getting coffee and no sweets. After all, they’re all high-calorie and filled full of fat—the choice is easy, right? But then you see it: low-fat coffee cake. Suddenly, you’re not so resolved. It’s low-fat after all!

We tend to let our guard down when we see these kinds of labels, don’t we? If high-fat is the same as high-calories, then shouldn’t low-fat mean low-calorie? I’m guessing we’re already on the same train of thought, and I don’t even need to answer that for you.

Research has found that we tend to eat more of a food that we think is low-fat than of foods regularly labeled. This article is fantastic, you should check it out. Researchers basically found that everyone ate more calories overall of low-fat labeled foods because we think that low-fat is the same as low-calorie. They call it the “health halo”: its an illusion that because of one label the entire food must be healthy (whether it’s a low-fat label, organic, high-fiber, etc).

In reality, most low-fat foods are only about 15 percent less calories than their regular counterparts. That means that a low-fat muffin might only have 30 calories less than a 200 calorie regular muffin. 30 calories, that’s it! Saving 30 calories isn’t going to make much of a dent in your weight loss. Especially when you consider you’d be more like to only eat half a regular muffin (100 calories), but because the low-fat muffin makes you feel better you let yourself eat the whole thing (170 calories).

What do we do with this, then? Don’t let labels be the deciding factor in what you eat and how much. Ignore the label and check the nutritional information.

Or, even better, skip the coffee and eat a cheese stick and a handful of carrots.

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