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'Healthy' Food Defined

Tuesday, 26 Apr 2011 09:43 AM

People who follow weight-loss diets are more likely to be deceived by foods that sound as though they’re healthy when, in fact, they pack a lot of fat and calories. Salads, smoothies, or vegetable chips, for example, can be anything but weight-loss friendly.

That’s the conclusion of a study that compared food choices of people who were on diets with those who were not. The researchers, from the University of South Carolina and Loyola University, found that dieters identify certain types of foods, such as pasta, as forbidden, but tend to ignore the actual contents of a restaurant dish or food product.

Pasta vs. Salad

In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the same mixture of vegetables, pasta, salami, and cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce was labeled either “pasta” or “salad.” People who were on weight-loss diets erroneously perceived the “salad” version as healthy, and were more likely to order it. But the “pasta” version was considered taboo, even though it contained the same ingredients and calories.

“Over time, dieters learn to focus on simply avoiding foods that they recognize as forbidden based on product name," say the researchers, “and they do not spend time considering other product information that might impact their product evaluations."

Candy, with two different names, was another item tested in the study. Dieters considered “fruit chews” healthier and tastier than “candy chews,” even though both were exactly the same candy.

Researchers found that non-dieters were not making an effort to choose low-calorie foods and consequently, were not influenced in the same way by names of menu items or products.

Don’t Be Tricked

Even if you’re not dieting, it’s easy to be tricked by labels placed on foods. For example, “apple crisps” or “apple chips” may sound healthier that potato chips, but many versions of the fruit snacks contain just as much fat and as many calories as plain old potato chips — with a higher price tag.

However, there are some snacks that contain only fruit without added fat, and they really do have fewer calories than potato chips. Here are some examples with approximate calories per 1-ounce serving:

Bare Fruit bake-dried apple, pear, cherry, or mango chips: 70 calories
Crispy Green freeze-dried apples, pears, mangoes, bananas, or pineapples: 112 calories
• Crispy Green also makes FruitziO snacks — apples and strawberries, kiwi, apricots, peaches, or strawberries with a “hint of sugar”: 112 calories
• As a comparison, baked or fried potato chips: 120 to 150 calories

Looking at this, Bare Fruit may seem like the best option for anyone trying to control calories, but there are two other factors to consider:

1. In practice, the size of the bag will influence how much anyone is likely to eat at one sitting. In this regard, Crispy Green freeze-dried snacks offer an advantage because they come in 10-gram bags (1 ounce is 28 grams) with 40 calories per bag. The smallest Bare Fruit bag is about 2.5 ounces (73 grams), with 174 calories per bag.
2. Nutritional density: The Crispy Green freeze-dried snacks deliver one serving of fruit in a 40-calorie bag but with Bare Fruit, it takes 87 calories to get one serving.

If all this math is making your head spin, there is a much simpler solution: Snack on a piece of real fruit. And the next time a food label or menu item seems “healthy,” take a closer look.


© HealthDay

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