So she says the solution is not to reduce the volume of food on the plate, but rather the number of calories in the same volume (called the calorie density). She urges people to do that by adding plenty of water-rich, calorie-light foods, such as fruits and vegetables. "The idea is not that you can or should eat a much bigger volume than you typically do," Rolls says. "It's that if you eat your usual amount you're going to feel full but with fewer calories.
Some experts say there's a place for these ultra-low calorie products in that kind of equation. Lisa Lillien, creator of the daily e-mail service Hungry-Girl.com and author of five cookbooks, relies on many specific products, including Tofu Shirataki noodles, to create satisfying, abundant, but still calorically light meals.
"The Hungry Girl philosophy is, 'How do you swap out certain foods for other foods so you can make recipes taste great but still come in with fewer calories?'" Lillien says. "I want to get the biggest bang for my calorie buck because I like eating a lot of food."
Health advocates and dietitians remain committed to the idea that portion sizes must come down. But they say these products could offer baby steps to people struggling to control their weight. And they might also be useful when you feel that binge coming on.
"We have some die-hard fans who've told us they've eaten five or six pints in a day," says Pandhi. "We believe everything should be eaten in moderation. But if you're going to choose five or six pints of ice cream, it's definitely healthier to choose our product than a full-fat premium ice cream."
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