YMCA Healthy Living Magazine, powered by n4 food and health (Autumn 2015) - Page 3

EMILY ORCHARD, APD Emily is a community-based Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist (orchardfreshnutrition.blogspot.com.au), who consults individuals and groups on a range of nutrition related topics including healthy eating, weight management, chronic disease management, nutrition for ageing, children’s nutrition. Emily’s key interests include growing and preparing delicious and nutritious meals, as well as children’s nutrition and sports nutrition. Read more about Emily at n4foodandhealth.com BEWARE OF THE “HEALTH HALO” EFFECT Nutrition expert Emily Orchard reminds us to beware of the “health halo” effect that may come with some nutrition fads. here is so much nutrition information available these days and everyone seems to be an “expert” when it comes to food and nutrition. We are constantly bombarded with information about the latest fad diets, food trends and new products on the market, so I’m never surprised when people come to me feeling confused and frustrated. And more commonly I am seeing people who have jumped on a particular nutrition fad, and fallen victim to what is known as the “health halo” effect. T “The what what?” you are probably asking. Here are some real life examples of the health halo effect in action: • “I’ll have another triple chocolate muffin please. They are so delicious, and they are gluten free so they are good for you! Bonus!” • “I ate the whole packet of cookies. But it’s okay because they were organic.” • “I can have seconds because they are all natural.” • “I use a thick spread of margarine on everything, because I use the cholesterol free version.” • “I can eat and drink heaps this weekend because I was good during the week.” The health halo effect describes the tendency to eat more of a product when we perceive it as being “healthy.” As a result, we can end up eating more calories than if we were to have the original version of a food! The health halo effect occurs when we eat more of a low fat food simply because it is low fat, or we have lots of a super indulgent dessert because we had a seemingly healthy main meal. Interestingly, the health halo effect may be contributing to why people in the developed world are of a higher weight now than ever, despite low fat eating patterns, increased nutrition information and product availability. There have been a number of research studies conducted in America, which demonstrate that when we believe we are being “healthy” or choosing a “low fat” or “low calorie” meal, we actually end up consuming more calories in total! This research was conducted by Chandon and Wansik in 2007. You can read more about it at: • www.jstor.org/ stable/10.1086/519499 • foodpsychology.cornell.edu/ outreach/organic.html • www.nytimes.com/2008/12/02/ science/02tier.html The take home message here is simply to be aware of the way you label or categorise food in your own mind. Do you consider foods to be “good” or “bad,” or do you tell yourself you are going to be really strict with your diet so you can eat like crazy at other times? Really, the health halo effect just demonstrates the crazy mind games we play with ourselves! At the end of day, we could all benefit from listening to our body and what it is asking for, rather than falling victim to the endless food claims, food advertising and fad diets which are promoted in the media. Make yourself aware of the nutrition value of foods, and seek the support of an Accredited Practising Dietitian to help you understand the sea of information out there! Putting a little more thought into your choices may help you to understand why eating in a particular way could get your health on track. You just might be surprised! AUTUMN 2015 YMCA HEALTHY LIVING MAGAZINE 3