People will choose larger portions of food if they are labeled as being "healthier," even if they have the same number of calories, according to a new study.
According to the research, people think healthier food is lower in calories and, as a result, tend to consume more of it. That misconception can lead to people eating larger portion sizes of so-called healthy foods, and therefore more calories.
Portion sizes of food have become larger over the years, and the researchers wanted to see whether health and nutrition claims had any influence.
The researchers asked 186 adults to assess the appropriate portion sizes of foods.
Given a bowl of coleslaw, the participants served themselves more of the coleslaw labeled "healthier" than the coleslaw labeled "standard."
For instance, obese men served themselves 103 grams of healthy coleslaw and 86 grams of standard coleslaw. In reality, the healthy-labeled coleslaw had just as many calories - 224 calories for every 100 grams - as the "standard" coleslaw, which had 223 calories.
People also tended to underestimate how many calories were in a serving for the "healthier" coleslaw. The participants most often thought the "healthier" coleslaw contained 113 calories.
In contrast, they were not far off in estimating the calories in the "standard" coleslaw.
The fact is, food labeled as being healthy is not always lower in calories. Experts say one reason why people might overeat healthier foods is because they feel less guilt when they choose a healthier option.
To overcome this perception, shoppers should look at nutrition labels for serving size and calorie content. Don't focus only on health claims.
SOURCE: International Journal of Obesity, online May 7, 2013.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.