Paleo pasta and fake carbohydrates are all the rage on clean-eating blogs, Pinterest and YouTube. Aside from making for beautiful, Instagram-worthy photos, spiralized zucchini and cauliflower rice make us feel like we are opting for a healthier option, without foregoing our favourite comfort foods. Right?
Not so fast. Kathleen Keller, a professor of nutritional sciences and food science at Penn State University, is skeptical of this trend, telling the Atlantic that it may actually be detrimental for our diets.
Chowing down on zoodles, mashed up frozen “banana ice cream” and other imitation healthy foods could lead to the “Snackwell effect,” named after Nabisco’s line of fat-free snacks, which occurs when dieters eat more of a food that has been labelled healthy. A 2008 study found that participants eat up to 35 per cent more if it had been marketed this way.
“They shouldn’t necessarily be pitched as pasta, but as a really creative way to eat these vegetables.”
Translation? People may overcompensate for their “healthy” decision by eating more than they normally would, or piling on more heavy sauces and cheese than they would have otherwise.
“In the past when we’ve tried to substitute healthier versions for the real thing, that ends up backfiring because people just think, ‘Well, I ate these really healthy noodles so I can put a really rich sauce on them,’” she said.
The real problem here is that we can’t trick our bodies into believing they’ve consumed more energy than they really have. While zoodles might look the same as pasta, they rarely leave us with the same satiated feeling as pasta (plus, their texture and taste are rather different, no matter what those zoodle zealots say). It’s therefore more likely that eaters will pile on the sauce or grab an after-dinner snack to get that same comforting, full feeling.
Instead, Keller argues that zoodles “shouldn’t necessarily be pitched as pasta, but they might be pitched as a really creative way to eat these vegetables.”
It may not be as “inspiralzational,” but it’s certainly more honest.