A recent study from the University of Otago and elsewhere found that people are not very good at judging the energy-density of what they consume.
Inaccurate judgments about food energy and/or portion size can lead to overeating and subsequent weight problems.
The study is published in Appetite. The lead author is Dr. Mei Peng, of the Department of Food Science.
In the study, the team studied how 70 people made decisions between food energy and portion size and found people were good at assessing food quantities, but not the energy density of the food.
They found substantial variations across people for judging food calories.
Although people are generally good at differentiating high-calorie foods from low-calorie foods, this judgment process appears to be more intuitive for some than others.
For some people, if a high-calorie food is presented in a small quantity, it appears to be less ‘unhealthy’.
As many of the available health guidelines are based on portion sizes, the researchers believe people need to be better informed about food energy content.
The team says more explicit and salient energy labels on food packages might be one of the possible methods to help people to make better decisions.
Relative to controlling food portions, paying close attention to food calories, and making good food choices may be more important for weight maintenance or weight loss.
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