I hope many of you out there are already familiar with the Nutrition Action Healthletter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI is a fantastic resource for well researched (yet easy to understand) information about health and nutrition. They are generally very on top of the latest food/nutrition trends and provide reliable recommendations about healthy living. A monthly subscription to their newsletter is $20.00 and well worth it in my opinion. If you’d like to check them out go to www.cspinet.org
This month they published an article entitled “Fooled by Food” that I thought was very insightful. It discusses the ways in which our food choices and levels of consumption are affected by packaging, labeling, positioning, even lighting. Brian Wansink, Professor of Marketing in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University ,is head of the Food and Brand Lab and the article summarizes an interview with him regarding his upcoming book Slim By Design. Professor Wansink explains that many things can affect how much we eat and what food choices we make. Inherently, I believe we already know this but you might be surprised at some of the industry “tricks” used to manipulate your choices. Some of the more interesting findings include:
1. Choices are more affected by height than width. Studies show people assume a taller package contains more than a wider package. So, if you offer a child a box/bag of candy they will almost always choose the taller package even if the wider one contains more.
2. Larger utensils and serveware equate to more eating. This one is failry well known – but the studies that Professor Wansink conducted showed A LOT more - up to 53% more calories were ingested when utensils and serveware were larger.
3. Medium is king. Turns out buyers naturally gravitate toward the “medium” size. But medium is determined based on the other sizes offered. So – if a small is already 8 oz, the medium is 10 oz and the large is 12oz – we pick the medium. But if the small is 4 oz, medium is 6 oz and the large is 8 oz – we still pick the medium ( 6 oz this time) and eat/drink 4 fewer ounces. Seems we think the middle of the road is the safest bet without much consideration as to its actual size relative to others offered.
4. This one was really interesting and geared specifically towards women. Research shows that we tend to follow examples set by others. When women went through a buffet line they were more likely to serve themselves larger portions if the woman in front of them did the same. If the woman ahead of us eats more from the buffet studies show we will too! Sort of like nutrition peer pressure – I’m sure many of us have ordered a salad at lunch because our girlfriend did. If she had “splurged” on a burger we would have too. Women are like pack animals – we go the to the bathroom in groups and we over/under eat together too
5. What is described as the “health halo” was also discussed. This is the idea that when foods are labeled organic, low fat or pesticide free most consumers assume that also means lower calories. So, they tend to eat more of that food. Sort of like when we assume all the expensive foods sold at Whole Foods are healthy – when in reality they may not be.
6. Slim by Design also highlights the best places to SIT in restaurants. Turns out that when we are relaxed we eat less and make better choices. So sit in a relaxing space, enjoy some nice music, chew slowly- by now you should know the drill. Sitting at the bar, watching the TV, chatting with the bartender all result in greater intake.
Other tips that you may or may not have heard include – don’t keep a candy jar on your desk at work, beware of dishes with really fancy names as they tend to have more butter/sauce/oil, dont save the good china – eating off your expensive dinnerware causes most people to eat less overall, if you grocery shop when hungry you dont necessarily buy more food – but you do tend to buy more packaged and processed food that can be eaten quickly, and (this one is sort of gross) if you order chicken wings you’ll eat more if the server takes away those nasty bones. If they leave the plate of bones in front of you – you’ll eat less wings overall. yuk…
But lets end on a high note shall we – this week I got to see one of my very dearest friends in the Whole Wide World. Laura and I go WAY back and she lives in Baltimore now but she was in Orlando with her hubby (also a bestie from way, way back) and their two perfect children and we all got together for a short dinner and visit last night. So wonderful to see her – makes my heart just sing! Here’s a couple of pictures to share.