Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Portion-controlled snack problem

There seem to be an increasing number of portion controlled low-calorie foods available. In theory, I like the idea of portion control. We all know that you’re likely to eat more chips if you’re eating from a large bag than if you serve yourself a small bowl and put the bag away before you start eating. For those who continue to hear the bag calling to them from the cupboard, mini-bags can be a great solution (as long as you don’t allow yourself more than one bag in a sitting).

My problem with the majority of these products is that they’re not going to provide you with any sense of satiety. Take these new Special K Fruit Crisps for example. At only 100 calories per two crisps they seem like a great idea. But what nutrition do those calories come with? Fibre? Nope, none. Protein? One measly gram (keep in mind a serving of protein is 6-7 grams). There’s only 80 mg of sodium and just under two teaspoons of sugar. When you think about it though, that’s a fair amount for the tiny bit of food and calories you’re eating. Wouldn’t you rather have something more satisfying? Even if you have to have a few more calories to do it, it may be worthwhile. And I do only mean a few. Have a piece of fruit and a few nuts or a piece of cheese (there are lots of convenient individually packaged options available now) and a couple of whole grain crackers. Sure, being able to toss something in your bag, desk, or car is handy but try to choose something that’s going to give you some nutrition and keep you feeling full for a while. Don’t waste your money on empty calories, you’d probably be better off eating the money (more fibre at least from the bills).


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.