Nutrition News: Planning Ahead for Health, Salt and Kids, and Reducing Ingredients

Department of Advance Planning

Spontaneity has its charms, but if you want to make better food choices, you may want to plan ahead. When people experienced a delay between the time they ordered their food and the time they intended to eat it, they consistently made healthier, lower-calorie choices. And they generally weren’t even aware they were doing so, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found.

Eric M. VanEpps, who led the research, said it’s not just that people are less hungry when they order in advance and therefore order less; it’s also due to their “bias toward the present,” he said. “If a decision is going to be implemented immediately, we just care about the immediate consequences, and we discount the long-term costs and benefits,” he told The New York Times. “In the case of food, we care about what’s happening right now — like how tasty it is — but discount the long-term costs of an unhealthy meal.” However, when you order a meal ahead of time, he said, “you’re more evenly weighing the short-term and the long-term costs and benefits. You still care about the taste, but you’re more able to exert self control.”

Guilt-Free Shaking

Parents wondering whether or not to salt their kids’ food now have an answer, courtesy of the Times’ Well blog: “Yes, in moderation.” Kids in the U.S. usually get more of the recommended daily sodium limit of 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams (i.e., a teaspoon or less), but that’s mostly because of the processed and restaurant food they eat, not because of the salt a parent may use to season a home-cooked meal. Read labels to limit salt from packaged foods, but don’t worry too much about using a dash of salt to offset the bitterness of nutritious foods such as broccoli and cauliflower and make them more appealing. “You’re teaching the different flavors in which broccoli can be experienced,” biopsychologist Julie Mennella told the Times. “So if you’re adding a little salt and that’s how you prepare it because that’s how it tastes good to you, especially if you’re adding it with the salt shaker, the impact on the sodium content is negligible.”

Mustard and ketchup


Mustard and ketchup

Photo by: Inga Nielsen

Inga Nielsen

Mustard and ketchup

Labels: Short and Sweet

Simple is in. Major packaged-food companies, such as General Mills and ConAgra, are increasingly reducing the number of ingredients in their foods — including snacks, syrups, condiments and ice creams — and trumpeting the fact on their labels to appeal to health-minded consumers, The Wall Street Journal reported. The trend is to eliminate ingredients consumers wouldn’t recognize from their own kitchen pantries and to winnow down the total number of elements to no more then 10, experts said. “We are seeing the largest shift in American food habits since World War II,” Alex Placzek, marketing director for Haagen-Dazs, told the Journal. “Consumers are interested in the quality, origin and simplicity of ingredients.”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.

Next Up

Make-Ahead Breakfasts (Picky) Kids Will Eat

Because the morning struggle doesn't have to be that bad.

Easy Make-Ahead Breakfasts Kids Can Help Prepare

Kids will surely eat breakfast if they helped make it, right?

How to Talk to Your Kids About Food and Nutrition

We asked two nutritionists and a psychologist for their best advice on how to talk to your kids about food in a healthy way.

Every Day Is a New Adventure with Food Network Magazine’s Brand-New Kids Cookbook

It’s filled with 365 days’ worth of kid-friendly recipes!

This 6-Ingredient Rice Dish Is Our New Favorite Way to Eat Tomatoes

Priya Krishna's easy recipe puts that garden haul to delicious use.

Internet Sensation “Chipotle Is My Life” Kid Gets New Menu Item Named After Him

You can now ask for Roy Murray’s go-to order, and don meme-adorned apparel.

Nutrition News: BMI and Your Health

A recent study suggests that a higher BMI may actually lead to a longer life. So now being overweight is good for you? That’s not the whole story!

Nutrition News: Investigating Health Claims on Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are in the spotlight again: lawmakers in NY state are investigating the validity of their health claims. Our dietitian has investigated these claims as well.