Was your last meal delicious and nutritious? Rave all you want about how tasty it was–but don’t focus on its healthfulness or you’ll end up back in the kitchen in no time, suggests a new University of Chicago study.
Researchers conducted several experiments and found that people who eat food that’s described as healthy are hungrier afterward and eat more later in order to curb their appetites.
College students were asked to sample a protein bar; some were told that they were tasting a new health bar, while others were told they were essentially getting a candy bar. Afterward, the health bar group reported being hungrier than tasty testers.
In the next experiment, researchers asked participants to try a piece of bread, described as either nutritious and low fat or tasty, with “a thick crust and soft center”. After eating the bread, participants were offered pretzels. Guess which group consumed more? The healthy bread eaters, of course.
Interestingly, in a third experiment, people were asked to pick either a “healthful” protein bar or a “tasty” protein bar. There was no difference in how hungry participants were afterwards, regardless of which bar they ate–leading researchers to speculate that people who purposefully choose healthy food are more committed to eating well, and less likely to “rebound” by overeating later on.
Personally, I think this study is further proof of the power of moderation. Go ahead, have a burger instead of a salad once in a while; you’ll satisfy your taste buds and your brain. But when you do order that salad, remind yourself that yes, it really is enough to tide you over until the next meal.