Jan 24 (Reuters) - Different labels on food that clearly display the total number of calories and nutrients in the entire package, rather than just part of it, might help people make healthier food choices, according to a study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
FDA researchers, whose results appeared in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that people were best at assessing things like chips and frozen meals - and comparing the healthfulness of multiple products - when the nutrition facts were presented for the entire container's worth of food, or for both one serving and the entire container.
This does away with the need to multiply the nutrition facts listed by the number of servings per package if people want to eat it all, researchers said.
"I think people really have a hard time interpreting what food labels mean," said Eric Matheson, a nutrition researcher from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
"It's almost like there's information overload," added Matheson, who did not work on the study.
Amy Lando and Serena Lo from the FDA surveyed close to 9,500 U.S. adults, showing them one of the 10 different types of food labels that presented calories and nutrients per serving, or per container, in a variety of ways.
Participants were asked how healthy they thought different products were, including how much fat, for example, was in one serving. They then compared types of chips or frozen meals to determine which was healthier.
Currently, manufacturers are given a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding how much a serving size is, according to Gina Mohr, a marketing researcher from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, who didn't contribute to the study.
To make products appear healthier, some companies have started increasing the number of servings listed per container, thus lowering the number of calories per serving. All of that adds to consumers' confusion, she said.
Researchers warned that it's still not known whether clearer nutrition facts would change what people choose to buy or eat, and it's also unclear if and when the FDA might issue changes to labelling requirements.
But having a system that lists the nutrients for one serving and an entire package - as some products do already - would help simplify things, Mohr said.
"It's so important to make the information as transparent as you can make it for consumers," she said.
Marion Nestle, a nutrition researcher from New York University, agreed, echoing Mohr's recommendation of a system like Britain's - in which the front of foods are labeled green, yellow or red on basis of their healthfulness.
"If you give somebody a big package of potato chips, they're not going to think there are five servings in it, they're going to think it has 100 calories," she said.
"I would like to see the total number of calories in a package, on a package. I don't think people should have to do the math." SOURCE: http://bit.ly/nODt9w (Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)
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Use A Bigger Fork
A study published in the <em>Journal of Consumer Research</em> shows that restaurant-goers who <a href="http://www.jcr-admin.org/files/pressPDFs/071311193612_mishra.pdf" target="_hplink">eat with really big forks</a> (20 percent bigger than a normal fork you'd find at a restaurant) eat less food and leave more on their plates than people who eat with really small forks. A possible explanation for this finding is that when people use small forks to eat, they feel like they are not making any big <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/07/15/using-a-big-fork-may-help-you-eat-less/?xid=huffpo-direct" target="_hplink">progress in eating their meal</a> and quelling their hunger pangs, <em>TIME</em> reported. In addition, the restaurant-goers who ate with the smaller forks and were given bigger portions of food at much more food than if they just had the smaller forks or if they just had the bigger portions.
Eat From A Smaller Bowl
Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that people eat 31 percent more ice cream when they eat out of a 34-ounce bowl, rather than 17-ounce one, ScienceDaily reported. Researchers explained that's because people eat about 92 percent of what they serve themselves -- so if you <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060803082602.htm" target="_hplink">serve yourself more, you'll eat more</a>.
Get Some Sleep
Columbia University researchers found that <a href="http://www.thirdage.com/news/sleep-deprivation-may-increase-hunger_3-26-2011" target="_hplink">sleep deprivation can also lead to more calories consumed</a>. They found that women who only got 4 hours sleep the night before ate 329 more calories in a nine-hour period compared with if they weren't sleep deprived, while men ate 263 more calories when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-more-lose-weight_b_857080.html" target="_hplink">sleep-deprived</a>. "It has an impact on cognitive restraint," study researcher Marie-Pierre St. Onge told ThirdAge. "High-fat food is tempting, and maybe on <a href="http://www.thirdage.com/news/sleep-deprivation-may-increase-hunger_3-26-2011" target="_hplink">short sleep you can't restrain yourself</a> as well, while on full sleep you can resist more easily."
Mind Your Environment
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/mindless-eating-environment-location_n_945712.html" target="_hplink">WHERE you eat your food</a> could also factor in to how much you eat and whether you're eating food even though you're not hungry, according to research from the University of Southern California. Researchers had movie-goers say whether they were regular popcorn-eaters or not, and then they had them eat either stale popcorn or freshly popped popcorn. The regular popcorn-eaters ate just as much stale popcorn as fresh popcorn, while people who didn't consider themselves regular popcorn-eaters ate significantly less stale popcorn than fresh since it didn't taste as good. "The results show just how <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/mindless-eating-environment-location_n_945712.html" target="_hplink">powerful our environment can be</a> in triggering unhealthy behavior," study researcher David Neal said in a statement. "Sometimes willpower and good intentions are not enough, and we need to trick our brains by controlling the environment instead."
Hide The Junk Food
Research from Cornell University shows that we are three times more likely to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/see-first-eat-visible-food_n_984004.html" target="_hplink">eat the first thing that we see</a>, compared with the fifth thing we see. In that study, researchers took photographs of 100 kitchen cupboards and asked the owners to keep records of what they ate. Researchers also tried moving the food around in the cupboards to see if that impacted their food choices -- and found that it did. The research shows that "we end up being masters of our own demise, to some extent," study researcher Professor Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," told HuffPost.
Eat Using Your Non-Dominant Hand
Research published in the <em>Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin</em> shows that <a href="http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/20/overeating-which-hand-are-you-using/" target="_hplink">eating with your non-dominant hand</a> can help you to decrease the amount of food you consume, CNN reported. The finding was part of the same movie-theater/popcorn study, where it was discovered that environment plays a part in mindless eating. Like in that experiment, researchers gave study participants either fresh or stale popcorn. They found that people who used their non-dominant hands and ate the stale popcorn ate 30 percent less than if they used their dominant hands, CNN reported.
How to Avoid Mindless Eating
Food Think with Wansink: Economy-size snacks can cause you to eat more