Harvard study names best & worst weight control foods

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you cut extra servings of just one food from your diet, you won't gain an extra pound every couple of years. That's the finding of a new Harvard University study.

Potato chips. We eat them, enjoy them, devour them.

But every extra serving of that crunch we have each day is packing 1.69 pounds on us every four years, according to a new study by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Why? Because we usually eat more than we should. You might eat a small bag of chips from a vending machine. But it may actually contain three servings. And potato chips spike blood sugar and insulin, making us hungrier at the next meal.

The study says counting calories is still important, but it's the quality of foods that matters most. Eating extra servings of french fries, baked potatoes, or mashed potatoes, can add 1.28 pounds to your weight every four years.

VCU Medical Center's Registered Dietician Mary-Jo Sawyer says she knows why. "How does a plain potato come? Usually covered in butter, margarine, cheese, sour cream," she explains.

Red meat and deli meats add one pound each four years, says the Harvard study. Adds Sawyer, "How many of us eat meat in three ounce portions? When you order a steak in a restaurant, usually the smallest steak you can get is eight ounces."

And by having that extra alcoholic beverage, you could be adding .41 pounds every four years. Overall, study participants gained 17 pounds over 20 years.

But Sawyer says you don't have to cut out any food, just monitor your portions. "I think you can get into trouble with demonizing one food over the other. You get to where people think this food is bad, so I've got to avoid it at all costs."

Try trading those extra chips for a yogurt. The study says an extra yogurt serving prevented .82 pounds of weight gain over four years.

Sawyer suggests using the new USDA "food plate" diagram to eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains to keep you full. "It's the idea of changing the way we think about things and ... having more foods, and allowing us to enjoy them rather than have the no, no, no, and I can't have this and that."

That way you can have your occasional potato chips, and eat them too!

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