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New study: Large portions for ‘healthy’ marked foods

KFC coleslaw

KFC coleslaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If something is labeled in the store “Healthy”, people automatically think it’s healthy. So, they will eat a larger portion of it, even if it has the same number of calories as the “unhealthy” foods do. At least according to a new study.

People think healthier food is lower in calories, and they tend to consume more of it

Pierre Chandon, a marketing professor at the INSEAD Social Science Research Center in France said. That misconception can lead to people eating larger portion sizes of so called healthy foods, and therefore more calories. The average amount of calorie intake for women are 1940 calories per day for women and 2550 for men.  (For one to lose 1 pound per week, there would  need to be 500 less calorie intake per day)

Foods are marketed as being healthier for a reason, because food producers believe, and they correctly believe, that those labels will influence us to eat their products and perhaps eat more of their products

Added Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan the director of Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood, a government agency in Ireland.

Safefood commissioned the study, led by Barbara Livingstone, a professor at the University of Ulster.

Foley Nolan said that the portion sizes of food have become larger over the years, and Safefood 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.

Additionally, people 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.


Chandon, who was not part of this study, said people tend to stereotype food that might be healthy in one aspect, say, lower in fat, as being healthy in every dimension.

But in fact, food labeled as being healthy is not always lower in calories as it’s over processed.

He said one reason why people might overeat healthier foods is because they feel less guilt when they choose a healthier option.

We think that these kinds of marketing means…of labeling things as being healthier, that it gives us a certain license to overeat and it can be dangerous, with regard to weight gain.

Foley Nolan told Reuters Health. She said the findings will be useful in developing nutrition policies and education campaigns to help people make healthy food choices.

Foley Nolan recommended that people bulk up on fruit and vegetables, rather than processed foods, even if they are labeled as healthy. Processed foods include meat, and canned vegetables/fruit. Stay away from high fructose corn syrup.

Chandon added that shoppers should also look at nutrition labels and calorie content.

Just pay attention to those “health” claims and don’t generalize or stereotype on one type of nutritional information

Chandon warned.

However, ABC News reported May 16, a professor who aims to create a healthy balanced pizza, with seaweed and red peppers. The pizza dough has seaweed mixed in right with it, but is this really going to be as healthy as it claims? Is what needs to be looked at, is the way it’s processed along with the additives and calories.  Be aware of what’s in your label.

Article Source: Medicine Plus/Reuters   ABC Article on Healthy Pizza   Featured Article Photo Credit: Getty


About Amanda Brown

Amanda Brown, a Certified Fertility Instructor, has been a fertility advocate for over four years. As a Certified Herbal Counselor, Amanda continues to advocate with resolve.org and educate about infertility, health, and well being. Amanda is a columnist for Woman’s Essence Magazine, and has helped many women with her columns on health and nutrition. Amanda has also created a large educational fertility website, which has achieved much success.


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