Photo by N.R./Flickr CC
To try riso e zucca, click here for a recipe.
The recent New York Times Magazine article on Jamie Oliver's efforts to combat obesity by teaching people how to cook simple foods highlights an interesting approach that I hope will have positive results. And it could get people cooking for themselves, which might be the most important result, even if he and his producers chose the small town they did because the obesity rates are so high (I won't call it the fattest town in America, as the article makes clear that its residents understandably bristle at the title).
As for losing weight: the recipes he teaches do not necessarily appear to be very low in calories or fat (for example, Mini Shell Pasta With a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce). But it is possible that home-cooked meals could help prevent excessive weight gain because the portion sizes might be smaller and they might change how people think about food.
The food-service industry has, of course, tried to make people not think about whether they are full. Portions are large, but served on enormous plates which make the portions look reasonable in size. Barbara Rolls' research has clearly shown that people eat more when served larger portions. People also seem to be very influenced by their perception of how much of their serving they have consumed. In one clever study, Brian Wansink served people soup in bowls that slowed refilled as the soup was being eaten. He found that rather than perceiving themselves as full based on the amount they had eaten, people judged themselves full based on how much soup remained in the bowl. Since most family-style and fast food restaurants serve extremely large portions and may refill drinks often, it seems reasonable to conclude that if people ate less often at these types of restaurants they might gain less weight.