Managing Weight: Good Foods vs. Bad Foods

Originally Published: August 1, 2011
Last Updated: March 16, 2021

In the food industry, healthcare community, governmental policy arena and certainly among consumers from a personal concern, one of the biggest issues is how the American (and indeed global) population can control its weight. A recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine casts interesting insights into the “Battle of the Bulge,” which focuses on managing weight: good foods vs. bad foods.

The research reviewed data from three separate studies (the Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study), involving 120,877 healthcare professionals who were not obese at the start of the study. The study participants were followed for 12 to 20 years. Every four years, the study participants completed questionnaires about what they ate, lifestyles and current weight.

What they found was that certain foods (French fries, potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, red meats and processed meats, other forms of potatoes, sweets and desserts, refined grains, other fried foods, 100 percent fruit juice and butter were associated (from most to least) with the greatest increase in weight. Foods resulting in no weight gain or even weight loss included dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The researchers noted that “Differences in weight gain seen for specific foods and beverages could related to varying portion sizes, patterns of eating, effects on satiety, or displacement of other foods or beverages.” I can only image the ad line for one potato chip company of years past “I bet you can’t eat just one,” exemplifies a “pattern of eating.” As for “displacement of other foods or beverages,” by eating a lower calorie, higher-fiber grain or vegetable-based foods, the thinking is that you’ll end up eating less of higher calorie foods like fried foods.

In the end, I still believe “everything in moderation” generally works best. It just that the research seems to say that by eating certain foods, it’s easier to “be moderate” in your diets.
The reference for the study: Mozaffarian, D, et al. 2011. Changes in

Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. N Engl J Med. 364:2392-2404. For the actual article, click here.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, Co-Owner