Snacking and portion control

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 10th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Fans of the cinema who also frequent the theatre’s concession stand know the routine: When ordering a small bag of popcorn, you’re immediately bombarded with a sales pitch to upgrade to a medium or large bucket for only fifty cents or so more. Now new research shows that if you don’t want to be tempted to eat more than you planned to, a small bag is the way to go.

A University of Illinois consumer economics expert says the bigger the box, the more people will eat. In one study, his research team traced the consumption habits of moviegoers in Philadelphia. When researchers gave moviegoers fresh popcorn or an old, cold batch, they ate far more when either kind was served in a large tub rather than a medium one. Consumers ate forty-five percent more fresh popcorn and thirty-two percent more old popcorn from the large buckets. This movie-time trial may hold one silver lining for loathers of health foods: Eaters may be likely to consume a greater portion of healthy choices, such as veggies, when they’re served in a larger bowl.

In a similar food experiment, researchers placed a bowl of chocolate kisses either on secretaries’ desks or six feet away. Those with the bowl closer at hand ate six candies per day, but only four from the bowl that was farther-flung. In this case, forget out of sight, out of mind… out of reach, out of mind might be just what the nutritionist ordered.