While I had a great time attending the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, I’m excited to be back into my routine and sleeping in my own bed. For some reason, no matter where I am, I miss my bed… anyone else?
I learned a lot while in Philly and now I get to share some awesome information with you! The conference focused on hot topics in health and nutrition and I got to sit in on great sessions led by top researchers and experts in the field.
One of the sessions was titled:
“When Bigger Portions Can Be Better” – Why eating less may not be the best message
I chose this session because I was fascinated by the idea of eating more. If you ever get the chance to spend the day with me, you may notice that I eat frequently, thus many may say I eat a lot of food. Yet, I’ve been around the same weight for quite a few years.
So, can a bigger portion actually be better for you?
The answer in the simplest terms is “yes”.
All of us are affected by portion size. The more on our plate, the more we will eat. Even children will eat more when given a larger portion, which suggests that our biology won’t prevent us from overeating. Seems that nurture is winning over nature…bummer.
When looking at weight loss strategies, “eating less food” is the most prevalent strategy, yet not the most effective. Look at a time when you’ve actually eaten less of your favorite food and been completely satisfied…be honest.
Even our government in the latest set of dietary guidelines suggests we “enjoy our food, but eat less”. So why would a larger portion actually be better?
Dr. Barbara Rolls, a researcher from the Pennsylvania State University (Go STATE!) led this talk (disclaimer: she is also the author of The Volumetrics Diet) along with Ellie Krieger. Her argument was to switch to lower energy dense foods, therefore allowing you to eat larger portions and leading to higher satisfaction or satiety (feeling full).
But what is “energy density” and how do we apply this to food?
Foods that contain more water, and less fat and sugar are considered less energy dense. Think of eating a sandwich versus soup. The sandwich is more energy dense than the soup because soup is higher in water. Thus, you can eat more soup than sandwich for the same amount of calories.
This concept of energy density allows us to fill up our plate and fill up our bellies for less calories and hopefully more nutrition. Instead of just decreasing our overall serving size and having the saddest looking plate imaginable, we can add more veggies, maybe some soup, or even substitute higher calorie ingredients, for lower calorie ingredients.
Let’s go back to the concept of portion size. Remember I said that the more we are served, the more we eat? Well that applies to ALL foods. In studies, the more veggies served to the person, the more they ate. Also, they ate even more when there was a variety of veggies served.
How to apply portion size and energy density:
- How much food do you actually need to make you feel full? When you find this out, find foods that add bulk without the calories. Think soup, vegetables, fruits etc. Even mix them into dishes to add bulk.
- Watch how much you serve yourself of certain foods. While eat less is a good message for ice cream and cookies, it does NOT apply to fruits and veggies. Pile it on. Remember, the more you serve, the more you eat.
- To eat more vegetables, trying adding variety. There are a lot of frozen veggies that come in mixes and blends. Try some Italian seasoning or Mrs. Dash to add flavor without oil or butter.
I guess more can be better