Variety really is the spice of life, and most people like having lots of tasty options in their diet. But having too many food choices can also make it difficult to maintain your weight. According to a study published in Obesity Research, limiting the number of foods you have access to makes it easier to keep those extra kilos off your hips and thighs.
Want to lose weight? Limit your food choices
This study found that people who had lost 7% or more of their body weight were more likely to keep it off when they ate a limited variety of foods. This included both foods that were calorie dense such as pastries, cookies and cheese as well as lower density foods that are lower in calories such as fruits and vegetables. It seems that having access to a limited array of food choices reduces the desire to overeat.
This study isn’t surprising. Most people have had the experience of going to an all-you-can-eat buffet where there was an unlimited array of food choices. The majority of people overeat when they’re given access to lots of tasty food options and leave the buffet feeling bloated and a little guilty.
Why is this so? The human appetite thrives on variety. Even when you’re full, being presented with another food option can rekindle the desire to eat. If you were to sit down to a meal that contained only a single food, chances are you’d become bored pretty quickly. Have you ever noticed how the first bite of a decadent treat is usually the tastiest, and the flavor becomes less compelling as you keep eating it? This is because your taste buds and brain adapt or habituate to some degree when they’re exposed to the same taste over and over.
Control your weight by limiting your food options
Having too many options isn’t a good thing when it comes to unhealthy foods such as desserts and foods that are high in fat and sugar, but when it comes to healthier “stuff” such as fruits and vegetables, variety is important. Although this study showed that participants were best able to maintain their weight when they had limited food options of all types, eating an array of fruits and vegetables gives your body the proper combinations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs for health.
For health purposes, it’s best to limit the number of unhealthy foods you keep stored in your cabinets and refrigerator so you have few “bad for you” foods to choose from. At the same time, stay well stocked with low calorie veggies such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cabbage and leafy greens. Cut up raw vegetables and place them into snack packs, and keep them in the front of the refrigerator. Make sure they’re the first thing you see when you open the door. It’s human nature to reach for the most visible item to snack on.
When you plan meals, limit the number of items you serve to help reduce your desire to eat past the point of satiety. Many people have a habit of continuing to eat even after they’re full, especially if they have lots of food options to choose from.
Lastly, avoid unlimited buffets. They make it difficult for even the most health conscious people to stop eating.
The bottom line
Variety is nice, but it can also wreak havoc on your waistline. Don’t make it too easy to overeat.