Can Side Salads Make You Fat?

Could a side salad make you fat? Possibly . . . if you let that side salad lull you into eating too much.
You see, side salads can play tricks on your mind -- such as making that slice of pizza next to it seem like no big deal, caloriewise. That's exactly what a recent study revealed when people were asked to estimate the calories in big meals.

Fooled by Food
In the study, participants were shown pictures of high-calorie main dishes, like hamburgers and meatball-pepperoni cheesesteak sandwiches, and were asked to guess the number of calories in them. Interestingly, when a high-calorie food item was pictured with a healthful side dish next to it, people estimated the meal had about 43 fewer calories than when the high-calorie dish was pictured alone. What's more, even the most health-conscious eaters weren't immune to this illusion. In fact, the people who lowballed calorie counts the most were those who reported being extremely conscious of their diets.  

Calorie Confusion
How is it that a healthy side dish minimizes the rest of the meal in our minds? It's hard to know. Maybe we think calories aren't so bad when lots of healthy nutrients come along with them. Or maybe we're hoping that chewing healthy foods like salads and fresh fruit has some kind of negative-calorie effect. Regardless, don't be fooled. If you get that salad on the side, you still need to lop off half of that restaurant entree and take it home for another meal.


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