You already know that consuming fewer calories is the most important rule of thumb for losing weight. And you probably think that cutting calories means tiny portions that barely fill you up...
However, taking in fewer calories each day doesn't have to mean eating less food. In fact, simply focusing on healthier food choices may be a more effective - not to mention sustainable - weight-loss strategy than reducing your portion sizes.
This is according to a new study by researchers from Penn State University in the United States. For the full findings, keep reading.
Making healthier food choices may help you lose more weight than cutting calories...
The study, published in the journal Appetite
, compared food consumption among 39 women who’d taken part in a year-long weight-loss study the previous year as well as 63 women who weren’t part of the earlier study. Both groups of women came to the study lab to eat a meal, with varying portions of seven different foods served each week, once a week for four weeks.
The women who were part of the previous study had been trained on various strategies for weight loss
, including making overall healthier choices, calculating calorie density of different foods and measuring out portion sizes. Because the training focused mainly on portion control, the researchers expected these women to eat less food overall, but this didn’t happen.
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Women in both groups tended to eat more when larger portions of food were presented. For example, when meal size increased by 75%, the average amount consumed went up 27%. Overall, there was no significant different in total amount of consumed by weight between the two groups of women. But there was one noteworthy difference...
Faris Zuraikat, first author of the study and graduate student in the department of nutritional sciences, explained: “When we dug into their food choices, we found that the trained participants were selecting to eat more of the lower calorie-dense foods – like salad, for example – and less of higher calorie-dense foods, such as the garlic bread.” In other words, the trained women consumed fewer calories even though they ate the same total volume of food as those who didn’t receive training.
The takeaway? It may be helpful to focus on a food’s nutritional wuality
Limitations to the study include not measuring the women’s weights and only involving four meals over four meals. This means that the difference in calories consumed probably wouldn’t have any real weight-loss impact. However, Zuraikat believes that making healthier food choices over time could be an effective strategy for reducing calories and slimming down.
Zuraikat concluded that it may therefore be helpful to focus on a food’s nutritional quality. “When you’re selecting lower calorie-dense foods, you can eat more of them,” he said. The pay off is that you’ll feel full for longer and be less likely to snack between meals.
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