Can't convince your brain to choose healthy foods? Portion size matters, researchers say

Experimenting with portion sizes of healthy and not-so-healthy foods may be the key to indulging "smart," say Vanderbilt researchers.

The focus, they assert, should not be on eliminating "bad" foods but on lowering portion sizes of these foods and eating more "virtuous" healthy foods in substitution, writes Jim Patterson on Vanderbilt's website.

"We suggest a simple … solution that can help consumers who would otherwise choose vice over virtue to simultaneously increase consumption of healthy foods (virtues) and decrease consumption of unhealthy foods (vices) while still fulfilling taste goals - 'vice-virtue bundles,'" said Kelly L. Haws, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management.

Taste-health balance point

In her research, Haws found that people tend to have what she calls a taste-health balance point, which is the ratio of vice and virtuous foods that a person finds satisfactory in terms of taste and hunger.

In general, Haws says that an ideal vice-virtue balance is a small to medium portion of the vice food (about 1/4 to 1/2 of a portion), and a regular or large portion of the virtuous food.

"So if a vice-virtue bundle was made up of fries and slices of apple, it might take a small or very small serving of fries to satiate the need for the vice food," Haws said.

The vice-virtue approach could work for restaurants or food vendors that want to maximize healthy options without compromising tastes, Haws concluded.

Source: Vanderbilt University

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