The Hungry Mind
EatingWell interviews Barbara J. Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan (HarperCollins, 2005)
"To be honest I read the first page of this article and got bored. But with the page I read, I felt as if I learned a little bit more about food and drinking water. "
Hunger and thirst are controlled by completely separate mechanisms in the body and the brain. One of the big unresolved questions in our field is, when is a caloric liquid processed as a food and when is it processed as a beverage? We don’t really know yet. Clearly, there’s a huge psychological component to eating behavior, which can often override the biology.
Our work has shown that although drinking water has little effect on energy intake, incorporating water into foods helps increase satiety. Having a big portion of a water-rich low-calorie food at the start of the meal—like a salad or broth-based soup—is a great strategy to reduce overall calorie intake. If the course is large enough and low enough in energy density, it can help fill you up and displace the more energy-dense foods later in the meal.
Q: What role should low-fat or reduced-calorie foods play in a healthy diet?
Lots of people don’t like the idea of foods that have been “tinkered with.” If you have that kind of mindset, you shouldn’t go there. But those products are an easy way to lower energy density and calories. If you’re drinking a 12-ounce soda daily, just switching to diet soda will save you 150 calories a day. If you don’t like a low-fat cheese, try mixing it with regular cheese—or just use less of the regular.
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