Experts say too much variety may be dieter's downfall

When it comes to diet, you've probably heard it's good to vary things up and try small portions of different types of foods. In other words - add some variety to every meal.

But now, experts with the American Heart Association say that advice could backfire, especially if you want to lose weight.

We have dietary needs to meet. And it takes a wide variety of foods to do that - or does it?

A recent review of research on dietary diversity shows the recommendation to eat a large variety of foods may be way off track.

"People eating a greater variety of foods had, in general, consumed more calories. And, in some studies, it was also linked to greater obesity," said study author Dr. Marcia Otto, an epidemiologist with UTHealth School of Public Health.

The American Heart Association, or AHA, said there's no consistent evidence that more diversity promotes healthy weight or optimal eating.

"When one is exposed to a large variety of different flavors, the appetite tends to remain up for a longer period of time, leading to greater food intake," Otto said.

She said the increase in options may delay the feeling of fullness, contributing to overeating and weight gain. The AHA said you should instead focus on getting a few of the right foods.

Think fish, poultry, and nuts, vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Also know there are situations where the greater variety can be a good thing.

"For elderly populations, for example, where under-consumption of food is a potential concern. Then, increasing variety may at the same time increase intake of foods, and that may be beneficial," Otto said.

But no matter what the age, it's important to be sure whatever you do choose to put on your plate is good for you and limit your access to things that aren't.

"I keep one chocolate bar - dark chocolate - that I love and that's my snack for the day. I know that if I had a number of different snack options, I would be eating a lot more snacks," Otto said.

Want to avoid eating too much?

Experts say be careful at buffets and parties, where there are piles of food. Make your meals limited and balanced and use smaller plates to help limit your choices.
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