The Health Halo Effect

The point of advertising is to entice you to buy products or services that you didn’t ‘know’ you needed.  Many of us know this, yet we fall as quickly as children do, for the marketer’s tag lines and false claims, again and again.  Their products claim; low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free, sugar-free and even organic.

These buzzwords imply that by eating these products you will be skinnier, healthier, and with less chance of illness.  Research has found that when a person perceives food to be organic or low-calorie, they may over consume foods.  This is called the ‘health halo effect’ because the person feels they are eating healthier, they may be consuming more calories, sweeteners or preservatives than they realize.

Eating whole foods in moderation, will allow your nutrition to come from a variety of food groups and sources (even fat).

Fat is an important macronutrient that helps you feel full and provides vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.  This statement is not advice to go buy some 500 calorie pastries or not question that gargantuan bowl of pasta.  Calories from sugar or high fats are not equal nutritionally to calories from whole fruits and vegetables and lean protein.  But, your body cannot function if it does not receive any fats at all either.  Again, it’s about moderation.

You don’t need to go gluten-free if you haven’t been diagnosed by a doctor with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.  Gluten-free products are expensive, and if you are looking to reduce your gluten intake, try sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, fruits and vegetables which have no gluten.

100 calorie snack packs are an interesting modification of higher calorie processed snacks.  Unfortunately many people eat more than one pack, which defeats the purpose.

Sugar-free products are often made with saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose.  Studies have shown that these products actually increase your cravings for things that are sweet instead of satisfying them.

The bottom line is that eating a variety of foods closest to their natural source in appropriate portion sizes, is the healthiest way to good nutrition and more daily energy.


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