Is it better to have a few bites of cheesecake or eat a full serving of the all-fruit mango sorbet?
If you ask researchers at Penn State, they’ll tell you that it’s probably more important to eat the healthier choice than to have a few bites of cake or crème brule.
It’s called the “portion size effect,” and it can make you eat more. It’s the tendency for people to eat more when larger portions are served.
It can derail your attempts to eat a few bites of a high-calorie option. So, if you’re staring at a large slice of cheesecake, chances are you’re going to eat more than a couple bites. And if you try to stop after those two bites, you might feel hungry.
Here’s another why choosing healthier desserts in the first place might be the better option.
In a recent study, researchers from Penn State found that people who choose healthier foods as a strategy to lose weight consumed fewer calories.
“The results show that choosing healthy, lower-calorie-dense foods was more effective and more sustainable than just trying to resist large portions of higher calorie options,” said Faris Zuraikat, a graduate student involved in the study. “If you choose high-calorie-dense foods but restrict the amount that you’re eating, portions will be too small, and you’re likely to get hungry.”
The researchers say the study — published in the journal Appetite — illustrates the strength of the portion-size effect while also suggesting easier, more sustainable strategies for managing calorie intake.
“The study supports the idea that eating less of the higher-calorie-dense foods and more of the nutritious, lower-calorie-dense foods can help to manage hunger while consuming fewer calories,” said Barbara Rolls, professor and the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences, Penn State. “You still have a full plate, but you’re changing the proportions of the different types of foods.”
If you’re looking for healthy dessert options, try cutting up some strawberries, sprinkling the tiniest bit of sugar on them and letting them get cold in the refrigerator. You can also cut a granny smith apple in half, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in the oven until hot. The natural sugars in fruit can satisfy dessert cravings.
To learn how to make healthy food choices, consult an expert. Registered Dietitians at Bon Secours Weight Loss Institute can teach you how to read food labels, plan meals and make nutritious choices when eating out.