- The quantity of food and the pace of consumption have significant impacts on calorie intake and can lead to overeating.
- Eating fast and larger bites may result in higher food intake as it possibly delays the satiety signals reaching our brain causing inadvertent overeating.
- Selecting water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables and being aware of portion sizes can help in moderating the energy intake, providing satisfying portions with less energy.
- One potential method to reduce calorie intake is to decrease the calorie density of food by up to 30% without causing noticeable differences. This may include the addition of more vegetables or using extra herbs and spices.
- A plant-based, whole food diet is recommended as it is voluminous yet lower in calories, helping control portion size and maintain a healthy diet.
It appears that the quantity of food you serve yourself and the pace at which you consume it might significantly impact your calorie intake and potentially lead to overeating, according to recent research.
Meal Portion Size and Eating Speed
New findings reveal that serving up a larger portion of food naturally leads people to eat more. One particular experiment showed that consumption could increase up to 43% when the portion size was increased by 75%. The subjects of this experiment were served larger portions of macaroni and cheese. In addition to this, faster eating and bigger bites also resulted in higher food intake.
“The implications for health, energy intake, weight maintenance and weight gain are significant,” comments Paige Cunningham, the study’s lead and a Ph.D. student.
Discovering the causes
To expose this phenomenon, researchers observed 44 individuals over four weekly lunch sessions. These participants were served various sized portions of macaroni and cheese in a random sequence and were videotaped to assess the speed of their eating and the size of the bites they took. The body’s physiological response to the amount of time food spends in the mouth could be the reason why faster eating or larger bites leads to an increased intake. Taking larger bites and eating faster might delay the satiety signals reaching our brain, resulting in inadvertent overeating.
One obvious way to moderate this is to be conscious of the portion sizes you’re consuming. Nutritionists also suggest offsetting calorie-rich meals by choosing foods that offer fewer calories per gram.
“Choosing water-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help by providing satisfying portions that offer less energy,” explains study co-author Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences.
While it might be possible to reduce overeating by slowing down the speed of eating, proving it to be a practical solution is tricky and some evidence proposes that eating speed is genetically influenced. In order to aid less calorie intake, a feasible strategy is to alter the calorific density of food by reducing it up to 30% without making any major differences noticeable. This may include adding more vegetables, using extra herbs and spices.
“Though it sounds challenging, making these small changes at home are doable and can have a significant effect,” assures Barbara.
Dana Hunnes, an adjunct assistant professor found the study’s findings unsurprising, supporting the data with previous research that as portion sizes have increased, so has overall consumption.
Body signals indicating that you’re full take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to trigger, this delay can lead to unintentional overeating. Hence, Hunnes advocates a diet rich in plant-based, whole foods which is voluminous yet lower in calories. This way, one can avoid hunger yet still control portion size and maintain a healthy diet.
“Filling your plate with low-calorie fresh vegetables, fruit, and whole grains is always a great method,” Hunnes suggested. “You’ll be able to satiate your hunger as these foods will fill your stomach.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided additional guidelines on healthy eating.
SOURCES: Paige Cunningham, graduate student, College of Health and Human Development; Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor, nutritional sciences, College of Health and Human Development, and director, Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior; Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, adjunct assistant professor, Department of Community Health Sciences.