Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Follow Friday: Me in Best Health Mag


Before the holidays I was interviewed by Lisa Bendall for Best Health Mag, a companion web magazine for Reader’s Digest. The article: 8 ways to feel full faster just went up the other day. Of course I had a lot more to say than made the cut but at least the content seems to be fairly accurate :)

A couple of things I wish had made it in there: discussion about Brian Wansink’s research, discussion about volumetrics. Volumetrics is the use of eating foods with low calorie density so that you can eat a larger quantity. As we tend to eat with our eyes a big plate of salad can be more satisfying than a candy bar even though it has fewer calories. In addition, there’s been research showing that recipes that have been modified to decrease caloric content by increasing vegetable content (e.g. mac and cheese incorporating pureed cauliflower) are just as satisfying as their full-calorie original counterparts.

We also talked about some things that have frequently been touted as ways to feel full and lose weight that have been disproved. For example, the consumption of a glass of water prior to a meal. Water can be satisfying when we’re mistaking thirst for hunger, but consuming water before supper does not lead to consuming fewer calories at the meal.

What it really all boils down to are a few key tips: preventative eating (eat before you get too hungry so that you can make rational dietary decisions), eat more vegetables, chew your food, include protein with all meals (especially breakfast) and snacks.


Can edible “stop signs” help to curb our appetites?

Brian Wansink’s done it again! Man, how I wish I could be involved in this research. This time his Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University inserted “stop sign” chips into tubes of potato chips. These chips were just regular chips dyed red and inserted at regular intervals. In one study the interval was every 7 or 14 chips and in another study, every 5 or 10 chips. Students were given one of the two intervals to snack on while watching video clips in class. A control group was given tubes of chips with no added red chips. Students were not told about the red chips, yet those given tubes with red chips still consumed about half as many total chips as those given tubes without red chips. The more frequently the red chips were inserted, the fewer total chips students ate. The premise for this study was that people will generally eat what ever’s in front of them but that visual cues signalling them when to stop might curtail their consumption. As cool as I think this is, I’m not sure how much practical value it has. What other foods do we eat that could be interspersed with “stop signs”? The applicability of this technique seems limited to chips in tubes. Still, if there is a way that we can broaden its application it could be useful to curb over-consumption and obesity.

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Follow Friday: Mindless Eating

As a dietitian with a degree in psychology I find the work of Brian Wansink at Cornell University endlessly fascinating. His website is: Mindless Eating and he’s also authored a book by the same name. His work helps to show us why we eat what we eat and why we eat as much of it as we do. He’s a big proponent of the effect of our food environment on our food consumption, as am I, and as you should be. If you’re interested in learning how to stop yourself from dipping into the candy bowl at work or all the little tricks that food companies and restaurants use to make us buy and eat more of their foods then you should definitely check out his work.