You would think that reduced-calorie food would help a person lose weight. But studies have shown that it can actually have the opposite effect, because health conscious people tend to eat more of something when they think it’s healthy.
In a recent study, dieters were more fooled by misleading health labels than people who don’t pay much attention to calories. Groups of dieters ate more of a mixture of pasta shells, cheese, and salami when it was called “salad” than when it was called “pasta.” Similarly, they ate more jelly beans when the beans were presented as “fruit chews” instead of “candy.”
The same effect is often seen with sugar-free, light, and low-fat products. People eat as much as 25-45% more of foods labeled with these terms than they do of the regular versions. This is a big problem, because reduced-fat, reduced-sugar, and light foods are usually only slightly reduced in calories. So people end up eating significantly more calories, which not only prevents weight loss but also leads to more weight gain.
What’s the moral of the story here? If you’re going to indulge in a brownie, cookie, chips, or pasta, it’s probably better to eat the real thing. Just make sure to keep your portion size reasonable. If you’re still hungry when you’re through, eat some vegetables or fruits. This is the only way you’ll really lose weight and keep it off for good. Sadly there are no magic packaged foods – even those reduced in calories – that help with weight loss.