Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mindless Eating Pitfall #2: The greater the variety, the greater the volume

Mindless Eating Pitfall #2
  • The greater the variety, the greater the volume.  I've said it before, and I will say it again: the greater the variety of food that we are exposed to, the more we are likely to eat.  Participants in one study were offered sandwiches with either a single filling or a variety of four different fillings, and researchers found that when offered the sandwiches with more fillings, participants ate 14% (or ~282 kcals) more. Why does this occur? It's still unclear; however, something called sensory-specific satiety (SSS) has been suggested. Essentially, our taste buds don't get burned out as easily when we consume a wide range of flavors (i.e., salty, sweet, savory, etc.), and possibly even textures and colors, within a meal . We end up feeling less full after consuming a variety of foods and eat more as a result.  Just think about the variety of food that we're exposed to at meals and parties during the holidays.  The kickers are those {special} foods, like stuffing or pumpkin pie, that are specific to the holidays.  You know, the ones that we think we'll never get again...or at least not until next year this time, so we must indulge now.
    Strategies to Manage
    • Survey the scene.  Scan the food selection before serving yourself so that you can see what's available.  Keep the variety and your appetite at bay by zeroing in on 2-3 of your holiday favorites at any given time.  Yes, you may want to go back for seconds, but this strategy will give you just enough pause to think twice about it.
    • Be wise, organize.  Even perceived variety can fire up our appetite, so shy away from offering more than one dish of the same food.  For example, serve the stuffing in one large bowl rather than two to three smaller ones.  Increased structure may also curb consumption, so position foods on the table in an orderly (think rows) rather than scattered pattern.
    • Diversify with veggies and fruits. Let the variety factor work for you rather than against you.  Increase the variety of vegetables and fruits you eat by aiming for at least 5 cups a day.  You may want to read my previous blog post for more tips on this topic. 


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