diet foodI've been in restaurants a lot this week because our dishwasher broke. It's really not that hard to hand-wash dishes--but things have been so hectic lately. That's my excuse.

Yesterday, in a fast food chain, I heard a 20-something woman say to another person: "I ate a banana today, so I can have the combo meal with a shake, right?"

Trading off healthy items for unhealthy ones isn't really how good eating habits work, but we've all done it.

It reminded me of a recent story in the New York Times that said Americans live in a dream eating world. They called the phenomenon a health halo.

One French researcher asked: Why have Americans paid more attention to eating healthily, but they have kept getting fatter and fatter? His findings:

  • Americans thought there were less calories in a big meal when that meal was served with a diet item like low-calorie cookies.
  • When the big meal was alone, they assumed it had more calories.
  • They’ve found that all of us, even professional dietitians, make systematic mistakes when estimating how many calories are on a plate.
  • This researcher believes it's because American restaurants and food makers sell us on diet items, and overdoing it on diet items is not good either.
  • He thinks we obsess about "good" eating versus "bad" eating too much.

Along the same lines, one CafeMom recently asked Do you have an addiction to fast food? This week, I guess I do.

What do you think? I think I've been guilty. Have you ever fooled yourself and thought if you eat one healthy thing (say carrots) then you can have another (like French fries)?