More Health and Nutrition Bites

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Too much coffee might be bad - for some 01/11/23
Stay hydrated 01/04/23
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Stay sharp with flavonols 12/14/22
Salting at the table 12/07/22
On time - and Velveeta 11/30/22
Cut calories vs. cut protein intake: the results will surprise you 11/16/22
Mediterranean Diet Improves Symptoms of Depression in Young Men 11/09/22
Weight and vision 10/26/22
When you eat might matter more than previously thought 10/19/22
All Health and Nutrition Bites


Red Light / Green Light
Earlier this year I reported on a study that looked at different ways to present nutrition information on a menu in order to affect the number of calories a person ordered. That study compared displaying the number of minutes walking it would take to burn the calories in each item with the number of miles one would have to walk. 

Desserts are good, chocolate is better!
The key to making dessert part of your healthy diet is that you should consider desserts as a special part of your life. They are not something that should be eaten every day. If you are using eatTHISdiet to lose weight, then dessert should be considered a serving that you substitute for another portion maybe once a week.

Plant Sterols in Chocolate
I'm sure you've seen them at the supermarket: foods that have been enriched with plant sterols. These compounds have been shown to help improve cholesterol scores - so much so that the FDA has approved the use of a health claim about it on foods that contain plant sterols. The American Heart Association actually recommends that you include 2 grams of plant sterols per day as part of a healthy diet.


Health & Nutrition Bites

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Eating Healthy is About More than Dessert

One of the reasons I started the web site is because the amount of nutrition information available to people these days is just staggering. Governments issue complicated guidelines and tax or otherwise limit some foods (but not others). Newspapers report on nutrition research. Television shows tout the latest pseudo-science. Magazines write about celebrity diets. I just wanted to help you, my readers, to cut through the hype by telling you about real, peer-reviewed research into eating healthy - and even more importantly, telling you HOW that research can be applied in your life in a way that will be sustainable for long-term, delicious, healthy eating. That's the "What this means for you" part of every Health and Nutrition Bite.

The research I'm sharing with you today shows me just how important that "how" is. One of the assumptions behind the proliferation of nutrition information − on food packaging and on restaurant menus, for example - is that more information about nutrition will prompt people to make healthier choices. And to some extent that appears to be true, at least in that those people who have more nutrition knowledge tend to have better eating habits. Researchers in Switzerland decided to design a study to find out if providing information about portion sizes and daily portion recommendations would directly affect what people chose to eat (Appetite 2013; 60:74-80).

They recruited 124 men and women who were neither vegetarians nor on a medically supervised diet to participate in their study, which involved choosing a lunch meal for themselves from a standardized buffet. Each person was randomly assigned to one of three groups. The control group was given no instruction other than to select a lunch meal from the buffet. The second group was instructed to choose a lunch they thought would be "healthy and balanced" for them. The third group was given a brochure containing information about the Swiss food guide pyramid along with detailed descriptions of appropriate portion sizes and the number of portions of the various food items (e.g., vegetables, fruit, protein, sweets, etc.) an individual should consume per day. They were given ample time to read the brochure and were then instructed to choose themselves a lunch that was "healthy and balanced." The researchers then analyzed which foods each person chose in light of which group they had been assigned to.

If giving people more information about nutrition guidelines leads people to make healthier choices, you might expect the people who received the brochure to make very different food choices than those who were simply invited to choose their lunch from the buffet.


Those receiving the brochure and those who were only instructed to choose a "healthy and balanced" lunch ate essentially the same things. Even worse, the only difference between those two groups and the control group was that the control group selected sweets like cheesecake or cookies for dessert - while the other two groups, the ones told to choose something "healthy and balanced" - chose fruit instead.

The researchers were particularly interested in whether the group receiving the brochure with information on number of portions and portion sizes would choose more vegetables and less meat. Disappointingly, they did not. The number of portions of vegetables and the amount of meat they chose to eat remained the same.

What this means for you

Eating healthy is about more than choosing fruit for dessert instead of cheesecake, and it's about the long term, not just one meal. Use the resources at to educate yourself, then apply that knowledge to every meal.

First posted: November 14, 2012