Food/Nutrition Columnist
We Eat Less Fat But Still Weigh Too Much
May 26, 2014 - 11:52:26 AM

( - It's been reported, over and over, that fat intake has declined, from 37% to 34% of total calories a day. This percentage decrease is misleading. As calories eaten each day have gone up, the actual amount of fat eaten (about 80 grams) has remained fairly constant. When people are eating more calories each day, the percentage of fat calories (out of total calories) will show a decline.

The American public has been bombarded with messages that foods high in fat, like steaks, whole milk, butter and ice cream put on pounds. Food without fat doesn't. The truth is that fat and foods high in fat are more calorie dense, but all foods have calories. It's the portion size that is the problem. People are convinced that lowfat and nonfat foods have no limits. We can eat what we want, as much as we want, whenever we want, as long as the food is fat free. We are devouring boxes of fat free cookies and slathering nonfat dressing on salads. The calorie excesses from these reduced fat foods are taking their toll and many brands, once touted as the dieter's windfall, have become their downfall.

People talk a good diet but that's not what they eat.

Have you ever met a person who admitted to raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night, eating a whole bag of potato chips or keeping candy in their desk drawer? When asked, most sound like health fanatics, munching on rice cakes and sipping water after a 5 mile morning run!

Government researchers have trouble getting truthful and accurate answers on food surveys. Sometimes people are embarrassed to report what they've eaten because they realize their choices where not the best. Regardless of the reason, researchers are aware that most people under-report less desirable food items and over-report the healthier choices. And in all cases, people have difficulty estimating amounts.

People are unable to accurately estimate how much they eat.

A consistent observation, which has held steady over time, is that people have difficulty estimating portion sizes. Typical portions in the US have gotten bigger and bigger. Many restaurants give unlimited beverage, bread, and side dish refills. Pasta portions are enormous. Bagels resemble Frisbees. A medium-sized movie theater popcorn is 16 cups of popcorn.

Another consistent trend is that people who eat smaller portions tend to overestimate portion size. But, those who eat larger portions routinely underestimate them. It does not matter is you are overweight or normal-weight. Everyone, across all weight categories and age groups, has difficulties estimating portion size.

When it comes to healthy eating, people aren't sure who to believe.

Americans are bombarded with advice about choosing healthy foods. Most daily newspapers have a regular food section, TV and radio news is full of the findings from the latest scientific studies, whole magazine are devoted to fitness and healthy eating, and store shelves are loaded with the latest dieting gimmicks. And if that isn't enough to sort through, the advice is continually changing. When surveyed, three out of four Americans believe there is too much conflicting information about what to eat.

Eat less fat because fat makes you fat. Eat less carbohydrates because they make you insulin resistant and lead to weight gain. More protein makes you feel full and helps the pounds melt away. There are weight loss supplements that guarantee you can lose weight in your sleep without exercise. It's no wonder people are confused.

Get your dieting facts straight.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.

Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.

Look for:

The Diabetes Counter, 5th Ed., 2014

The Fat and Cholesterol Counter, 2014

The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013

The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013

The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012

The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011

The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010

The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


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