Break the Fast Right

July 12, 2012

After fasting, we tend to reach for starchy foods, not veggies – find out how to avoid overdoing starches when you’re hungry

What is the first thing most people go for after a fast? Well, according to a study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, people tend to reach for high-calorie, starchy foods over nutritious foods like veggies.

Researchers including Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, randomly assigned over 120 college students to either an 18-hour fast (6:00 pm ‘till noon the following day) or no fast.

At lunch to break the fast, participants (both the fasting and non-fasting group) were offered a buffet with their choice of two starches (i.e. bread or French fries), two proteins (chicken or cheese), and carrots and green beans. Scales in the tables measured how much food participants took, and video cameras recorded the order in which participants ate the food.

Findings revealed that 35 percent of participants in the fasting group began their meal with a starch, versus 13 percent of those who did not fast. A quarter of participants in the fasting group began their meal with a vegetable, compared with 56 percent of those who did not fast. Another interesting finding was that participants consumed about 47 percent more calories from the first food they ate compared with other foods.

So what’s the take away from this study? Plan ahead, and don’t let your hunger get the best of you! When we’re really hungry many of us tend to reach for starchy foods, not the most nutritious pick – the trick is to not get too hungry – plan snacks in-between meals if you know you will be famished hours before dinner. Planning ahead helps us make better choices for our health goals, and only takes a few minutes of time. Once you get in the routine of planning for both meals and snacks – a handful of almonds with an apple or other fruit as an example of a satisfying snack – it will get much easier and will become second nature. Avoid overeating starches and under eating other veggies – just plan ahead!