Could you have food amnesia?

Could you have food amnesia?

Tot up what you’ve eaten today. Now do it again and include every single nibble. Is the result the same? Hmm, thought not … It might be time to sharpen our memories.

If you’re battling to shift the extra kilos despite eating what you consider to be a healthy diet, or you’re gaining weight, it could be you need to become more aware of how much you’re really eating.

Numerous studies reveal many of us incorrectly estimate how much we’re really consuming each day, and, if we’re already overweight, we’re a bit more likely to be forgetful. One piece of research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that, on average, adults under-reported a massive 25 per cent of their daily kilojoule intake — in other words, the study found that a woman who needs around 8700 kilojoules a day is likely to forget about eating an additional 2200kJ worth of food! That’s enough to prevent her losing half a kilogram a week.

Most foods we buy these days come with nutrition information on the label, including the kilojoule content, so where are these furtive kilojoules coming from? If we’re trying to lose weight, chances are we’re not scoffing bars of chocolate, giant cookies or packets of sweets …

“Often kilojoules tot up through mindless nibbling,” says nutritionist Bridget Benelam. “That leftover fish finger from your child’s plate, the cracker you snacked on while waiting for dinner to cook, the cheese sauce you scooped up from the bottom of the pan after making lasagne, or the boiled sweets you sucked in the car — they all contain kilojoules. But because you’re only having a mouthful here and there, it’s easy to forget about them.” So it seems the kilojoules consumed through nibbling don’t enter our consciousness — a condition some experts call ‘food amnesia’.

“It’s really difficult to keep track of exactly how much you’ve eaten,” says Benelam. “Part of the problem is these extra bites seem insignificant — and that’s why we tend to forget about them. But when you add them up over the course of a day, the result can be a significant number of kilojoules, which prevents those unwanted kilos dropping off.’’

Easy-to-forget mouthfuls


  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter eaten from the jar while waiting for toast to pop 100kJ
  • 1 teaspoon chocolate spread eaten from the jar while waiting for toast to pop 100kJ
  • extra 1/2 glass of orange juice to empty the container 190kJ

Children’s leftovers

  • 1 chicken nugget 100kJ
  • 3 oven chips 150kJ
  • 4 potato chips (5g) 110kJ
  • 1 grilled fish finger 210kJ
  • 1/2 grilled sausage 250kJ
  • 1 tablespoon leftover baked beans 60kJ
  • 1 tablespoon mashed potato 50kJ
  • 1/2 slice toast, spread and Marmite 300kJ
  • 3 tablespoons pasta with tomato sauce 200kJ
  • 1/4 egg sandwich 320kJ
  • 1/4 slice cheese on toast 170kJ
  • 3 licks ice cream 80kJ
  • 5 pretzels 70kJ

At work

  • 1 chocolate biscuit in a meeting 400kJ
  • leftover tuna mayo sandwich triangle from an office shout 330kJ
  • slice of colleague’s birthday cake 1200kJ
  • 1 teaspoon sugar in your coffee because you’ve run out of sweetener 80kJ
  • glass of white wine 500kJ
  • 1 wrapped chocolate from a box 340kJ
  • leftover bite-sized chocolate brownie square from the office party 260kJ

Cooking/clearing up

  • 1 slice ham 130kJ
  • 2 tablespoons coleslaw eaten from the tub 100kJ
  • 3 finger dips into a pot of hummus 150kJ
  • cheese slice 300kJ
  • 3 teaspoons homemade bolognese sauce ‘to taste’ 50kJ
  • mouthful fatty roast beef sliced from the end while joint is resting 140kJ
  • leftover roast potato dipped in gravy while clearing up 270kJ
  • 2 tablespoons leftover cheese sauce scraped from the pan 80kJ
  • 1 tablespoon leftover cake mixture scraped from the bowl 150kJ

Out and about

  • 1 small boiled sweet 70kJ
  • 1 peppermint 35kJ
  • 1 cough lozenge 40kJ
  • coffee-shop regular-size latte 600kJ
  • 1 mouthful sugar-sweetened soft drink from your partner’s can 70kJ
  • 6 hot chips from a friend’s portion 390kJ
  • 5 M&Ms from a friend’s packet 130kJ

How to avoid mindless nibbling

  • Keep a food diary for a week and list every mouthful. Make sure you make a note of what you eat and drink as soon as you have it — if you wait till the evening, you’ll have forgotten about those extra bites. Once you’ve recognised your food amnesia danger zones, you can be on your guard at those moments.
  • Keep sugar-free chewing gum to hand. When you’re in a situation that you know will tempt you to graze — be it preparing dinner, clearing away your children’s leftovers or at a work celebration — pop a piece of gum in your mouth and chew on that instead.
  • If you really can’t resist the temptation to nibble, keep healthy foods around you — baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, berries — and choose them over that muffin, slice or leftover sausage.

Just 400kJ more than you need each day can lead to more than a 3kg weight gain in a year.

Author: Juliette Kellow

Healthy Food Guide

First published: Jul 2016

2017-11-16 15:26:21

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