“It’s practically a health food,” is a claim my husband and I like to make when we are consuming something particularly indulgent. “It’s got eggs for protein and healthy fats, butter which is totally natural,and flour, which is made from a plant! And don’t forget the anti-oxidants in the chocolate chips. See, there’s lots of good stuff.”
It’s a joke for us, of course. As I’m sure it is for many other people. But in reality, there are a lot of foods out there that make health claims that lead to people making unhealthy choices. A recent study out of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland demonstrated that people will usually serve themselves more of a food that claims to be “reduced fat” or “low-fat” or in some other way “healthier” than the standard fare.
That’s because people tend to see claims to healthfulness as a license to eat as much as they’d like, guilt-free. That attitude, however, can lead to a distorted idea of what a proper portion size is, and therefore to eating too much and of things that are actually not very nutritionally beneficial in the first place.
Foods that are labeled as “low-fat” or “reduced fat” often make up for the fat by adding more sugar, or other fillers to simulate the taste or texture that people are used to in the standard version, leading them to eat just as many if not more calories than they would have if they’d chosen the standard option rather than the “healthy” one.
The “health halo” or claims to nutrition that many food companies put on their food to draw sales can be misleading. There maybe some nutritional value in the food, but probably not enough to warrant a larger serving. So be careful when shopping to check the portion size, calorie count, and sugar content before choosing the “reduced fat” bottle of dressing over the standard one.
After all, you can find “health” in just about anything even chocolate chip cookies. Believe me, I’ve done it.
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