On Coleslaw, Health Claims, and Portion Size

Coleslaw ExperimentTake a look at the coleslaw samples above. Say you are having a barbeque lunch and wanted to add some slaw as a side. You can choose either the creamy coleslaw or the low fat option. Which will you opt for? How much will you eat?

That’s exactly what scientists from the University of Ulster wanted to find out. More precisely, they wanted to compare how consumers assess regular vs. “healthier” food in 3 dimensions:

  1. portion size
  2. calories
  3. guilt factor

The results – to be published soon in the International Journal of Obesity – are interesting, and probably not surprising. 186 people participated in the test. All of them estimated that the reduced fat coleslaw had less calories the the creamy one. They then went on to serve themselves a portion that was 71% larger than the FDA recommended serving size. Of course, less guilt was associated with eating the “healthier” food.

What can we learn from this: The moment we see health claims on a product, and it doesn’t matter if they make sense or not, we feel less guarded with the amount we are consuming. If you look at the packaged foods you buy, the majority of them have some sort of health claim on them. Which means you are most likely overeating everything…

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  • Alyssa

    This is so true! I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say, oh, this is okay to eat because it’s low fat, or it’s healthy because it has whole grains.

    I have another questions. How do you keep up with new scientific articles like the one you posted here? I really love this website, but I need more science to back my thinking.

  • Brian Klein

    Interesting study. I guess you pick your poison with the 2 choices. With the low fat, I’m assuming you would get more sugar. With the creamy, I’m assuming you would get bad fats. (Industrial seed oils.) Now if the cole slaw was made homemade with olive oil mayo and vinegar, with very little sugar, it would be a very healthy dish.

    • Heather

      I’m with you Brian, when I see low fat I think high sugar. Especially with dressings. I see people make these type of choices all the time.

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  • Joe

    Raw cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) contribute to thyroid deficiency. The natural toxin in them (a chemical called goitrogen) is neutralized by cooking, steaming, and fermenting. Americans are already deficient in thyroid hormones, so eating raw slaw is just making that worse. Source: http://www.westonaprice.org