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Food Overload

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The "Super-Size" Mentality continued...

It's also the route to tipping the scales, says Brian Wansink, PhD, professor of food psychology and marketing and the director of the Food and Brand Lab at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Buy the big bag of nearly anything, he has found in his studies, and you will eat more at a sitting. "Once you open it, there's no real need to stop," he says. Wansink has found that larger package size can increase consumption up to 43%.

In restaurants, portion sizes are getting bigger and bigger. Food is a small part of overall operating costs, compared to labor and other expenses, Nestle says. So why not super-size those meals to attract the diners who want to get the most for their money -- which is everyone. At the movie theater, buttered popcorn comes in bigger and bigger tubs. And research shows that it's usually just one person emptying a tub, Nestle says.

Filtering the Messages of Excess

Giant-sized servings and seductive food messages aren't going to stop any time soon. So, how to cope? "Half the battle is awareness," Quagliani says. When eyeing those super-sized packages, she suggests that you ask yourself "Do I really need all that food?"

There's nothing wrong with buying the economy size of a food item, especially if it helps you to live within a budget. But once you get home, repackage the food into smaller containers, to avoid overeating.

You can win half the battle, however, if you don't put the item in your shopping cart in the first place. Fight those signs that suggest buying 12 candy bars and freezing them, and reach only for the items on your list, which should include the needed quantities, Wansink says.

And be wary of grocery-store design that steers you away from the produce section and toward foods that may be less crucial or healthy, says John La Puma, MD, a Chicago-area physician who heads the CHEF Clinic (Cooking, Healthy Eating, and Fitness), a research project and community-based healthful lifestyle program.

LaPuma heads straight for the produce section and chooses fruits and vegetables. Then he leaves his cart there and roams the store to collect other food he needs. With no cart close by, he says, he is much less likely to pick up impulse items because he would have to carry around sometimes awkward and bulky packages.

No matter what tactic you use, common sense can help, too. Buy and eat too much super-sized anything and it's bound to super-size you.

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