It’s a common scenario. You buy that processed food you love and promise yourself that you are going to just eat a small portion of it a few times a week. Then, before you know it, you realize that you have finished the whole bag or container in just one sitting. You then likely blame yourself for your lack of self-control and then feel horrible.
The truth is that you shouldn’t blame yourself, because food manufacturers design packaged foods carefully to make them addicting! Read on to learn the most common technique used by food manufacturers to keep people like you from sticking to eating just the small portions you plan to eat, and you can then use this knowledge to help you stop over-eating!
The Most Common Trick Used to Make Processed Foods Addicting
Packaged peanut butter is the perfect example of a food that can be extremely easy to overeat in its processed form.
Ever notice how every big-name peanut butter on the market contains both sugar (or high-fructose corn syrup or another sweetener) and salt? Many companies even add additional oil to the already high-fat food. They do this because human taste buds are “programmed” to seek out fatty, sweet, and salty foods for survival. When a food contains just salt, just sugar, or only fat, it is not nearly as addicting as foods that contain all three. Even sweet soda contains sodium, and if the manufacturers could sneak in fat, they likely would!
The urge to seek out these tastes was important for human survival many years ago when obtaining food wasn’t as simple as hitting the local grocery store. If our tongues weren’t originally “designed” to enjoy the tastes of fat, sugar, and salt, we likely would not have survived as a species. It was important to indulge in fatty or sweet foods when encountered, because we didn’t always have easy access to them. While not high calorie, salt is an important electrolyte our bodies simply cannot live without, which is why we also crave salty foods.
Food manufacturers know this, and whenever they can include salt, sugar, and fat in one food without making it taste bad, they do! They know that when a food contains all three, consumers are more likely to overindulge in it, which leads to more profits for them.
How to Use This Knowledge to Stop Over-Eating
The best way to avoid foods engineered to make you eat more than you want to is to only purchase whole foods and make your own meals at home. You can then avoid all the tricks food manufacturers use to keep you eating more than you plan to!
You don’t have to avoid adding any fat, sugar, or salt to your recipes, since your body still does need them all. However, if you find a recipe that calls for all three or two of these types of ingredients, only add one. For example, if a homemade healthy cookie recipe calls for salt along with sugar (or a naturally sugary fruit), then leave the salt out. You likely won’t even notice a difference in taste, but the result will be a batch of cookies that you won’t be so tempted to eat too many of.
In fact, many people switching to a whole foods diet from one filled with packaged foods lose weight naturally without calorie counting or even intentionally limiting portions. When you eat whole foods that are not engineered by food scientists to keep you eating and eating, it is much easier to listen to your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals!