Quick Studies

Keep It Small

May 2012

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People eat more when they're offered larger servings. But is it more food—or bigger plates, bowls, bags, or other containers—that makes the difference? To find out, Belgian researchers offered 88 college students one of three bowls of M&M's to snack on as they watched a 22-minute TV show: a small (one-cup) bowl filled with 7 ounces of candy, a large (three-cup) bowl with 7 ounces of candy, or a large (three-cup) bowl filled with 21 ounces of candy. The students ate twice as much candy from the two large bowls (about 2 ounces, or 300 calories' worth) than they did from the small bowl (about 1 ounce, or 150 calories' worth).

What to do:

If your dishes are generously sized and you're trying to eat less, maybe it's worth investing in a new set. And keep in mind that you might eat more of the remaining chips or cookies or crackers at the bottom of a large bag than you might from a smaller bag. Also, repackage food from large bags into smaller (preferably reusable) containers. And if you don’t want to eat the entire dish at a restaurant, ask the server to wrap half of it up before it reaches the table.

Appetite 58: 814, 2012.

The contents of NAH are not intended to provide medical advice, which should be obtained from a qualified health professional. The use of information from Nutrition Action Healthletter for commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission from CSPI.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the nonprofit health-advocacy group that publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI mounts educational programs and presses for changes in government and corporate policies.

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