Health Concerns

People Are Getting Fat by Overeating ‘Healthy’ Food

Heavier than it looks.
Heavier than it looks. Photo: Sebastian Marmaduke/Image Source/Corbis

Eat less “healthy” food sounds like some sort of Jim Gaffigan farce diet, but amazingly, this is actually what some researchers are proposing. The researchers, based at the University of Texas and writing in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, say foods described as “healthy” trick people into believing that means they’re also “less filling.” But as anyone who’s eaten a quinoa–wheat berry–nut salad can attest, this isn’t the case, and the authors argue those who rely on labels to eat a healthier diet will paradoxically often end up eating more food.

The warning is based on a series of studies that tested appetite in various settings, like after consuming a “healthy” cookie, or a less “healthy” cookie (which in reality was the same cookie). Test subjects reported feeling hungrier after eating the “healthier” one, a depressing finding researchers replicated in other ways: “When a food is portrayed as healthy” — which includes being fat-free, high in fiber, or whatever — “consumers report lower hunger levels after consumption, order greater portion sizes of the food, and consume greater amounts of the food.”

They conclude food labels could therefore be “ironically contributing to the obesity epidemic rather than reducing it.” That’s probably even truer considering how all-natural is all but meaningless nowadays, hiding all kinds of garbage that’s really in food. A “no ‘healthy’ food” diet may finally be the New Year’s resolution everyone can get behind.

[Food and Brand Lab]

‘Healthy’ Food Is Making People Fat