Less Chewing Equals More Eating (And Other Food Industry Secrets)

In addition to their paltry nutritional value, processed foods disappear down our throats so quickly that they fail to leave us feeling satisfied. The result? More eating.

| November 2, 2011

The following is an excerpt from The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler, M.D. (Rodale, 2009). Drawn from the latest brain science as well as interviews with top physicians and food industry insiders, The End of Overeating is a groundbreaking investigation into why we eat the way we do, and how our modern diets — highjacked by the food, restaurant and advertising industries — have contributed to our current national health crisis. Shocking, thought-provoking and ultimately empowering, The End of Overeating will change the way you look at food and give you the tools you need to reshape your eating habits. This excerpt is from Chapter 17, “The Era of the Monster Thickburger,” and Chapter 18, “No Satisfaction.” 

U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that today we’re eating more of everything. By far the largest increase has been in the consumption of fats and oils, with a 63 percent jump over a 33-year period, from per capita annual consumption of about 53 pounds to about 86 pounds.

The use of sugars and sweeteners is also up — by a modest 19 percent — and in that same period, we ate 43 percent more grain and 7 percent more meat, eggs and nuts. USDA data also report that we’re eating 24 percent more vegetables, which seems like good news until you learn that a large component of those vegetables are deep-fried potatoes in the form of french fries.

The ready availability of formerly scarce fats and sugars reflects centuries of change in agriculture and more recent developments in manufacturing, distribution and government regulations. Early human diets contained only about 10 percent fat. Sugar intake, primarily from ripe fruit, was also modest. But these commodities were essential sources of the energy needed for survival, and we developed the biological tools to appreciate them when we could get them. That may be why we have 300 or more olfactory receptors to sense the odors associated with fats, as well as an innate preference for sweetness.

When we talk about the complexity of American foods, we aren’t referring to the kind of complexity traditionally associated with fine cuisine or regional or ethnic cooking. The American concept of complexity is built on layering and loading rather than an intricate and subtle use of quality ingredients. Visitors from other cultures often remark on the difference. Yoshiyuki Fujishima, an executive at Ajinomoto, one of Japan’s largest food companies, believes that American food is fundamentally less satisfying than Japanese food.

“The food I used to eat in Japan has complex flavor, and I can get satisfaction with less quantity,” he says. By contrast, with American food, “You have to have a lot to be satiated.”

Elizabeth Schafer
12/5/2011 5:54:29 PM

One more idea and then I promise I'll leave room for other people's comments! Buy fresh lemons and limes, cut in half and squeeze a little in plain hot or iced tea, seltzer water or recipes. When done, slice the point off the bottom of each half without cutting a hole in the shell to allow it to stand upright on its own, hollow it out and serve chutneys, relishes, jams or other condiments in the shell! Keeps messy condiments neatly separate from other food on your plate and allows individual servings to be put out at parties or whatever. Always looking for convenient ways to make use of every part of the plant food, and make vegetables and fruits less wasteful! It's cost-effective for organic produce.

Elizabeth Schafer
12/5/2011 4:48:54 PM

I used to make homemade applesauce, leaving it chunky not pureed and adding no additional sugar. If you get good quality, local, organic apples the natural sweetness comes through and if you prefer, you can add a dash of cinnamon or even fruit juice to perk it up. Children do better with the pureed version, especially if you make your own baby food, but you can always put this chunky sauce into a food processor to finish the job. Another grand idea for eating well and preserving the environment and a mom's sanity!: try serving pasta and rice salads with beans to children in hollowed-out pepper bowls! It's like cold, raw stuffed peppers and kids love it. If you're really motivated, take celery stalks with the bulb ends and use them as spoons for serving! Have you ever used celery to serve nut butters or bean dips? It saves dish-washing and sometimes kids will nibble on the celery spoons or the pepper bowls after the salads are gone! A unique way to sneak an extra vegetable or two into your kid's diet!

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