Ditch the “Diet” Food

skinny fiberI’m not a big fan of “diet” foods.  And I hate products touted as “skinny” or “guilt-free,” something I’ve written about before.

My latest blog post for WedMD’s Real Life Nutrition  explores why fat-free, sugar-free and other so-called diet foods are not always the best choice.    Hope you’ll check it out.

In my post, I highlighted a fascinating study that may make you think twice about always defaulting to the low-fat snack or sugar-free dessert.   To me, it really reinforced why we should be approaching food with a sense of pleasure – not guilt, fear, or regret. If you’re in a constant search for the best “diet” food, you may never feel fully satisfied and may simply keep eating to fill up the void.  And that’s what this Yale study demonstrated.  

Alia Crum and colleagues gave participants two different types of milkshakes – one was a “diet” version, described as fat-free, no added sugar, and low-calorie. Its label promised “guilt-free satisfaction.” The other shake was the indulgent version, described as high-fat with 620 calories. Its label touted “decadence you deserve.” Guess what? They were the exact same milkshake (380 calories), but the participants didn’t know that.

When the participants drank the “guilt-free” milkshake, their bodies responded much differently than when they consumed the indulgent shake. Even though the nutrient profiles of the shakes were identical, the diet shake was less satisfying and the researchers had blood samples to prove it. They measured levels of ghrelin, or what’s often referred to as the “hunger hormone.” When your blood levels of ghrelin are high, it sends signals to your brain to say you’re hungry. As you eat, ghrelin levels fall, which reduces your appetite and makes you feel full.  Ghrelin levels may also influence your metabolism: low levels speed up your calorie burn, while high levels may slow the burning of calories.

After drinking the indulgent milkshake, the ghrelin levels of the participants dramatically declined. Yet, when they were given the diet milkshake, ghrelin levels stayed stable – indicating that their bodies did not get the same signals of fullness.  That’s rather astounding to me. Participants drank a shake that had the same amount of calories and fat, but their perceptions of what they were about to drink altered their body’s physiological response. When we think we’re getting a “diet” food, we anticipate feeling deprived and our body reacts with more hunger and less satiety.

To me, this is even more evidence to ditch the diet food, and keep pleasure a part of the picture at mealtime. You may find yourself eating less and enjoying it more.

 

image courtesy of goldrushdirect on flickr

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9 Comments

  • http://www.carlenethomas.com Carlene Thomas RD

    This is such an awesome post. I always warn against opting for ‘diet’ versions of food…it’s like you know you’re not getting what you actually want and the cravings continue.

  • Joe

    I have worked as a chef for close to twenty years and as an RD for almost 10. During that time it has always seemed obvious that “regular” food is more satisfying. That is why it is common to hear of folks who try to “diet” but before long return to their regular manner of eating. Moreover I have long been a skeptic of most diets and their true effectiveness. As such I have always recommended to patients and clients to eat real food that satisfies being aware of portion size.

    Great post! It is about time that our industry saw the light!

  • http://www.purifyne.com Kapil Patel

    It’s a great post, you really are a good writer! I’m so glad someone like you have the time, efforts and dedication writing, for this kind of article… Helpful, And Useful.. Very nice post!

  • http://www.foodpleasureandhealth.com Dixya @ Food, Pleasure and Health

    oh wow. this is such an interesting research. I try to do certain things diet but like you mentioned earlier, there is still a void of fullness sometimes especially with sweet food. I dont mind the low fat versions that much though, fat free stuff bothers me. I did not realize how our perspective on things can affect our hormones too- wow!

  • http://www.foodpleasureandhealth.com Dixya @ Food, Pleasure and Health

    oh wow. this is such an interesting research. I try to do certain things diet but like you mentioned earlier, there is still a void of fullness sometimes especially with sweet food. I dont mind the low fat versions that much though, fat free stuff bothers me. I did not realize how our perspective on things can affect our hormones too- wow!

  • http://www.foodpleasureandhealth.com Dixya @ Food, Pleasure and Health

    oh wow. this is such an interesting research. I try to do certain things diet but like you mentioned earlier, there is still a void of fullness sometimes especially with sweet food. I dont mind the low fat versions that much though, fat free stuff bothers me. I did not realize how our perspective on things can affect our hormones too- wow!

  • http://www.allianceonemumbai.com/ Sunita Banerji

    Hi, I have had confusion spells occasionally in life when I have wondered whether to go for carbs in my diet or not. Being an Indian a meal was never complete without ample portions of rice which left one feeling satiated. For the longest time I used to feel miserable at not eating rice which left me feeling unsatisfied and half-hungry. It was when I really got into shape that I began to consume carbs once again and here I would like to stress that only when one is lean and physically active can one start consuming carbs and comfort foods. But the amount of physical activity that you do has to be immense to work off those carbs and the accompanying calories that it comes with! And I think the pleasure and comfort of polishing off a plate of pasta twice a week is reason enough for me to go swim, run and workout at a grueling pace and intensity! I am a much happier person now because life for me is incomplete and not worth living if I cannot eat rice, pasta, breads and pastries!

  • http://www.clickfitpro.com/healthy-diet-plan-for-women.php Jon McShea

    Hey Janet, just read the post you referred to – simply amazing. Just goes to show how much the mind plays a role in what you put into your body and how that determines the results of your weight loss efforts. I think there is such a general lack of knowledge around this area that people would get a lot of benefit from understanding it.
    Cheers, Jon McShea.

  • http://www.raipharmacies.com/ Clifford Mitchell

    It is not easy to lose weight though not that hard to achieve, having a proper diet alone could help us and with exercise, we can somehow have a higher chance and faster result. The food we eat is the main reason why we live and gain energy, and it is also the reason why some of us become obese due to lack of good food management.

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