Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It's Not Me... It's the Bar!

My favorite sweet treat right now is a chocolate raspberry hazelnut bar made by a local bakery. These three ingredients sit on top of a crust like that of a raspberry bar. To me, this is heaven in a wrapper. Luckily, the bars are available at several stores and delis that I frequent. Unluckily, the bars are really big – about 2.5 x 3.5 inches. One could easily be split into two or three servings. I could do this myself; however, I just love it so much that I eat the whole bar! The wrapper does not have nutrition information on it; my guess is that it’s somewhere in the 400-500 calorie range given the ingredients. I try to keep my snacks around 100-150 calories, so eating one of these throws me out of balance. It would take more than an hour of quick walking to burn off the extra 300 calories provided by this snack – I struggle to have a regular physical activity routine, much less adding an extra hour-long walk.

My only solace is that this compulsion to eat the whole bar is not totally my fault. Studies have shown that people will keep eating long after they really need to, even with foods that aren’t as delicious as a chocolate raspberry hazelnut bar. The way food is packaged and served greatly influences what and how much we eat. For instance, when my husband graciously serves me stir fry, he gives me a lot more than I would serve myself. I’m much too polite (or lazy) to get up and put some back. Research shows that I’m more likely to eat more when I have a lot on my plate than I am when I have less on my plate, regardless of hunger. Portion sizes have grown throughout the last 40 years, which directly influences how much I eat.

I use a lot of strategies to watch portion sizes and consumption: use smaller plates; put salty snacks like chips in a small bowl rather than eating from the bag; or share treats with a friend. However, I’m not immune to the many environmental and psychological forces that influence my decisions. So my plea to my local bakery (and manufacturers throughout the land) – please give me the option for smaller portion sizes!

Until I hear back from the bakery (and the rest of the manufacturers) on my request, maybe I’ll institute a “No Chocolate-Raspberry-Hazelnut Bar” policy for the car; go inside, cut the bar in half, re-wrap the other half; and place it in the refrigerator far from where I’m sitting.

Mindless Eating from Cornell University
Portion control ideas for adults from CDC
Portion control ideas for kids