We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) give up those indulgent foods you love entirely in order to slim down and get fit. And now there’s big news to back us up: Those naughty foods you love might actually be the key to retraining yourself to eat healthier meals.
A new study under review for publication found that everyone has a “taste-health balance point” – a ratio of healthy to unhealthy food – that they find satisfying. This coupling of healthy and unhealthy food has been dubbed a “vice-virtue bundle.” Here’s the biggest surprise: For most people, the indulgence only needs to be ¼ or ½ portion of the bundle to be thoroughly satisfying. Subjects actually preferred bundles with smaller vice portions, even when offered a large (3/4) portion of vice foods. Within this study, that means people chose a snack that was 3/4 baby carrots and 1/4 potato chips over a potato chip-heavy version. Bonus: bundles with a smaller vice proportion were rated healthier and just as tasty as those with a larger indulgent component, suggesting that we can satisfy the urge to eat unhealthy food with small portions.
Though the study is targeted at companies – they can increase menu offerings and, therefore, business by adding plates with vice-virtue hybrids – it offers useful insight for the consumer, too. Your choices at home and out at a restaurant are not all vice or all virtue. Have a small serving of fries with your baked fish and steamed veggies or make your next snack an apple and a small portion of Chex Mix, they both apply the same idea. You can find your taste-health balance point and slowly work toward decreasing the vice and increasing the virtue, without having to give up your favorite guilty-pleasure for good. Since it can even help you consume a healthier meal overall, let’s just strike the guilt now, shall we?