Since 1950, the amount of information regarding the nutrition of the food that we consume has increased by nearly 900 percent. Despite this fact, obesity has risen by 214 percent and roughly two out of every three adults in America are now classified as overweight or obese. Being overweight is not merely a cosmetic issue, it increases the risk for multiple diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, cancer, osteoarthritis, infertility and stroke.
Interesting Way to Make Healthy Food Choices
With so much nutritional knowledge available to us, we simply cannot blame our current obesity epidemic on ignorance. We know that fruits and vegetables, lean protein and unrefined, complex carbohydrates are both filling and relatively low in calories, yet in spite of our ever expanding waistlines, many of us choose junk food over healthy food on a habitual bases. One explanation for our strong gravitation towards junk food is that we learn to associate junk food with positive feelings when we are young, and breaking these associations requires a tremendous amount of commitment and willpower. Fortunately, new research published in the May 2012 edition of Appetite journal, has revealed a simple and accessible way to make healthier food choices — one that doesn’t rely on formidable willpower!
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Why You Choose Junk Food Over Healthy Food
The research was based on two separate studies and it was conducted by T. Bettina Cornwell of the University of Oregon and Anna R. McAlister of Michigan State University. For the first study, 60 adults between the ages of 19 and 23 were surveyed on the role of food and drink pairings. The survey revealed that adults prefer the pairing of sweetened beverages with high calorie, salty foods, over sweetened beverages with vegetables.
For the second study, 75 children between the ages 3 and 5 were recruited for multiple experiments involving beverages served with vegetables. The preschooler experiments were conducted under differing scenarios and on different days. The researchers found that the children choose to consume more raw vegetables when they were served with water as opposed to a sweetened drink.
The Research on These Extra Calories
According to Cornwell, children learn to associate high calorie, sugary drinks such as colas, with high fat foods such as French fries, from a very early age. McAlister adds that early palate development appears to play an important influential role in food choices later in life. Meals served at home and meal combinations offered at restaurants, set the stage for these associations and for the tendency to choose junk food over healthy food, when sipping on sweetened beverages.
“Our taste preferences are heavily influenced by repeated exposure to particular foods and drinks,” states Cornwell.”If the drink on the table sets the odds against both adults and children eating their vegetables, then perhaps it is time to change that drink… and to serve water with all meals. Restaurants easily could use water as their default drink in kids’ meal combos and charge extra for other drink alternatives.” Both McAlister and Cornwell are confident that serving water with meals could effectively reduce the nation’s obesity rates, diabetes rates and ever rising healthcare costs.