Eating healthy and making wise choices takes a little practice. Many of us are determined to get it right and so we pay attention to what we are eating, choosing foods that appear healthy to us. How often do you feel great knowing you took the time to choose wisely and eat right? How often do you find yourself getting sucked into making food choices that are less than healthy even though you thought they were good choices?
Strawberries on ice cream, fresh fruit on cake, vegetable wrap from fast food, Burger with coleslaw, and the list goes on. It seems according to some recent research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, sticking a healthy garnish on the side of unhealthy food tricks our mind and throws off our calorie calculator.
The study showed that people who were given a bowl of ice cream estimated it would be 481 calories but the minute the researchers put strawberries on top the same group of people estimated the calories to be 405. The study also found that 35% of the participants ate more junk food when it included a healthy side or garnish.
Let’s be honest – our minds really want to justify unhealthy foods, especially our snack foods. Coauthor Ying Jiang, Ph.D from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology explains that nutrition equals low calorie in your brain, so tacking on just a few healthy pieces of fruit to a bowl of ice cream or a sundae can trick you into thinking that dish isn’t really that bad for you. If you can trick your brain into thinking that what you are about to eat is healthy, as is the case especially with snacks and desserts, you’ll feel no guilt eating it and you’ll feel ok eating a lot more of it than you normally would.
Researchers say one way to reduce your calories by 22% when eating dessert is to put it on a small plate. It gives you the illusion that you are eating much more than you actually are and that satisfies your brain’s sweet tooth more quickly.
Just as you can trick your brain into thinking less than healthy choices are good for you, you can also trick your brain into thinking you are eating more of your favorite foods than you are, making your brain (your craving center) much happier.
Foods That Appear Healthy That Are Not
- Multi Grain and Wheat Breads – Terms like 7-grain, multi-grain, and wheat sound awfully healthy, but the product may not actually contain heart-healthy whole grains. Many of the breads labeled “”wheat” are characteristically made with refined grains, so you do not get the full nutritional benefit of the whole grain. How can you be sure? Start by carefully reading the nutrition labels. If the first flour in the ingredient list is refined (bleached or unbleached enriched wheat flour) you are not getting a 100 percent whole-grain bread.
- Prepared Salads – Do not assume because it says salad that it is healthy for you. Prepared salads are often loaded with calories and hidden fats. If you choose prepared salads make sure you have your nutritional facts in front of you to help you make healthy choices.
- Reduced Fat Peanut Butter – Just because peanut butter says reduced fat it doesn’t mean it is healthier. The reduced fat peanut butter often contains more sugar so be careful!
- Energy Bars – These look like the perfect snack yet far too many of these bars are packed with sugar fructose corn syrup and fat – in reality there’s nothing healthy about them.
- Smoothies – These days the rave is to drink smoothies. These certainly start out healthy but if the servings are extremely large, they can become packed with calories. Make your own and you can better control what goes into it.
- Packaged Turkey – Turkey is a good source of lean protein but the packaged turkey is often packed with sodium and other preservatives that are best not consume. It’s better to create your own or buy fresh turkey slices from the deli.
That’s just a few ways that we are fooled into thinking we have made a good food choice when we have not.
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