Week of April 23, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How can I cut back on my habit of going back for second helpings?

A: If you're truly hungry, second helpings are not automatically a bad thing. They can even signal that you were being too cautious in portion control with your first portion. For many people, however, that is not the case, and going back for seconds can derail your weight loss efforts. Do you speed through meals without enough time to realize you're full before you reach for seconds? If so, behavioral tricks to slow down, even playing slow music or eating by candlelight, can have amazing impact on helping to slow your eating pace. Keeping serving bowls off the table can help, especially combined with teaching yourself to sit for a couple minutes after finishing before you get up for more. Some people keep a bowl of salad or vegetables on the table so that if they do take second helpings, it will be low-calorie, high fiber foods. Look at the balance of your meals' foods: are there plenty of low-calorie vegetables, beans and whole grains available to fill you up? Another option is to prepare less food so there's less to tempt you. People whose children have grown and left the nest often continue cooking for the larger family they once had, and then eat double what they need. Or you might focus on the benefit of having leftovers, putting some food into containers for freezing or next day's lunch as you serve the meal. Regardless of the strategy you choose, success increases when you hold onto the mindset that you do not need to go hungry and that you are simply making it easier to avoid excess you don't want. Keeping that nagging fear of deprivation at bay is a powerful key for many people still struggling after years of dieting efforts.

Q: Is steel-cut oatmeal more nutritious than other forms?

A: No. All forms of oatmeal are whole-grain, containing the same vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber (including the soluble fiber known for lowering blood cholesterol). Traditional oatmeal is referred to as rolled oats, because the whole-grain oats are softened by steam and flattened on rollers to form flakes. Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scotch oatmeal, are cut by steel blades into small pieces without being flattened. Quick-cooking (one-minute) and instant oatmeal are steamed, cut and flattened in progressively smaller pieces to cook more quickly. The real differences between these kinds of oatmeal are their cooking times and textures. Steel-cut takes longest to cook and has a more hearty, chewy texture. Instant oatmeal may seem lower in fiber than the other forms when you check the label information, but that's only because a single packet usually makes a smaller serving. The nutritional disadvantage of instant oatmeal products is not their fiber or whole grain qualities, but their sodium, sugar and calorie content that is often substantially higher per serving than plain oatmeal.

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