Jan. 30, 2013

Study: Just a bite satisfies cravings for snacks

If you’re giving in to cravings for chocolate or other snacks, think smaller, take a bite and wait. A new Cornell study finds that eating smaller portions of commonly craved foods will satisfy a person just as well as a larger portion of the same food would.

“This research supports the notion that eating for pleasure – hedonic hunger – is driven more by the availability of foods instead of the food already eaten,” said Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and a co-author of the study, “Just a bite: Considerably smaller snack portions satisfy delayed hunger and craving.”

The research appears in the January issue of Food Quality and Preference (27:1). Wansink wrote the study with lead author Ellen van Kleef of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and co-author Mitsuru Shimizu, a Cornell postdoctoral researcher.

The study found that portion size has a direct impact on calorie intake – and portion size did not have a direct impact on the level of satisfaction in the person eating the snack. The researchers came to these conclusions after giving one group of 104 adults regular-size portions of the same snack – either chocolate, apple pie or potato chips – and offering another group just a couple of small bites of the same snacks.

Those who ate large portions consumed 77 percent more calories than those who ate a few bites. Although they ate substantially more calories, their hunger decreased the same amount as those eating small portions. For both groups, cravings significantly decreased 15 minutes after eating, and they were equally satisfied.

“So, how much chocolate would you need to eat to be satisfied? Less than half as much as you think,” Wansink said. “If you want to control your weight, here’s the secret: Take a bite and wait. After 15 minutes all you’ll remember – in your head and in your stomach – is that you had a tasty snack.”