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Eat Less and Exercise More

Eat Less and Exercise More

" Eat less and exercise more" is a phrase we're all familiar with when it comes to shedding those extra pounds. But in practice this advice is not always as simple as it sounds. At the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, research is underway examining the factors behind our eating habits.

‘Eat less and exercise more’ is a phrase we’re all familiar with when it comes to shedding those extra pounds.

But in practice this advice is not always as simple as it sounds. At the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, many research projects are underway examining the factors behind our eating habits from a wide variety of perspectives from psychological influences to our social environment.

As part of this, the Institute’s Human Nutrition Unit, has devised a simple ‘comparison study’ which demonstrates common misconceptions when it comes to the food we put on our plates.

Sylvia Stephen, manager of the Unit, said: “Many of us gain weight incrementally putting on about half a kilogram in weight each year, without even noticing. More alarmingly, over the Christmas and New Year period some of us will have gained between 1 and 2kg.

“The Rowett’s Human Nutrition Unit was established to study the relationship between diet and health in humans and as part of that we have carried out work to establish how people perceive different foods and their energy values.

“These repeatedly demonstrate that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the calorific value of both meals and snacks.”

To test this idea, the Press and Journal hit the streets of Aberdeen with Laura Young from the Rowett Institute, to see if members of the public could successfully identify how three dishes compare in terms of their energy values.

These consisted of a beef stir fry and 80g crisps and 80g of chocolate.

Laura: “We’ve put this to the test using the three different foods at various public events ranging from the Royal Highland Show to the Scottish Parliament and we find the majority of people are surprised by the results.

“We will ask them to identify which of the three they think contains the most calories and the most common answer is usually the chocolate.

“In fact all three have the same calorific value of approximately 400 calories. It really helps to put into perspective just how easy it is to clock up the calories when snacking. The handful of crisps you eat while preparing your main meal can sometimes add up to more than the meal itself.

“Work undertaken at the Rowett aims to help people make better decisions when it comes to the food they eat and so simple techniques like this are very effective in providing a clear demonstration of how our perception can influence our choices.”

Mrs Stephen added that for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight being aware of the nutritional value of food is very important.

“It is not just about calories,” she said, “The stir-fry contains onions, carrots, red pepper and sweet corn which all count towards your five a day, and contains more fibre, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. 

“If you want to lose weight, and stay healthy, try to avoid high fat and high sugar foods and go for  more nutritious snacks, and consider eating less energy dense foods and more that contain whole grains and fibre and lean sources of protein, which will make you feel less hungry.

“Overeating is made easy by virtue of the fact that foods rich in fat, sugar and salt taste good and are also easy to consume, and we can happily eat vast quantities before giving up!  Conversely it’s not so easy to consume vast amounts of fruit and vegetables and foods that are rich sources of fibre or wholegrains, because they are more bulky and contain more water.

“It is also helpful to understand the calorific content of food in terms of how long it takes to burn off through exercise as we know this is another area people frequently misjudge.”

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