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Do you stick to healthier brands and low-cal foods, but the scale just won't budge? It may be that those healthy-sounding words on food labels are tripping you up.

Beth Lipton
September 23, 2014

Do you stick to healthier brands and low-cal foods, but the scale just won't budge? It may be that those healthy-sounding words on food labels are tripping you up.

In a new study published in the journal Appetite, researchers found that labels promising "low calorie" foods can cause frequent dieters to eat more, even if the brand is generally a less healthy one.

Participants tasted identical cookies that had been wrapped with different brand names and caloric labels. The researchers used the brand names Kashi (associated with healthy eating) and Nabisco (associated with unhealthy eating). Though the cookies were the same, both dieters and non-dieters rated the cookies labeled Kashi as better-tasting than the ones labeled Nabisco. Regardless of brand, cookies marked low-calorie were rated about the same by both groups.

Here's the problem: Dieters ate more of the "Nabisco" cookies when they were labeled low-calorie. And non-dieters ate more of the "Kashi" ones whether they were low-calorie or not.

The upshot? Beware of the marketing messages on food labels, and the health halo associated with certain brands. It's perfectly fine to have a treat, but it's still a treat, no matter what the label says, so keep portion sizes in check.

RELATED: 8 Tips for Controlling Portion Sizes

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