These three common sense calorie-control strategies were recently put to the test:
1. Eat a smaller treat. Happily, a smaller portion can satisfy a craving just as well as a larger one, according to a study from Cornell University, published in Food Quality and Preference. Participants were given large or small portions of three commonly craved foods: chocolate (31/2 ounces or 1/3 ounce), chips (1 ounce or 1/3 ounce) and apple pie (7 ounces or 11/2 ounces). Those given the larger portions consumed 77 percent more calories— but after 15 minutes, hunger and cravings were equally reduced in both groups. “Whereas larger portions might increase food intake, smaller portions may make you equally satisfied,” the researchers said and all it takes is about 15 minutes for this satiety effect to kick in.
2. Use smaller utensils, like a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon, especially if you eat while distracted. Taking larger bites leads to increased food intake, studies have shown. Meanwhile, eating or drinking while distracted can also lead to greater intake. A Dutch study in PLOS ONE found that when people took smaller sips of soup, they consumed 30 percent less than when they took larger sips, both when they were distracted (by a movie) and when they were focused (on the food’s taste and flavor). Of course, it’s always better to eat while not distracted so you can be more mindful of what you eat. You may enjoy your food more and thus be satisfied with less.
3. Don’t go food shopping on an empty stomach. In another Cornell study, hungry shoppers (who hadn’t eaten in five hours) bought 31 percent more high-calorie foods at a simulated online store, including more meat and snacks, compared to sated shoppers (who fasted but then ate crackers before making selections). The researchers also observed food purchases at a real supermarket at different hours and found that shoppers who were more likely to be hungry (between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) bought fewer low-calorie foods than those who were less likely to be hungry (between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.). Previous research has shown that viewing high-calorie foods when fasting increases activity in brain areas associated with rewards, while the current study confirms that even short-term food deprivation can lead to a shift in food choices.