The fastest path to overeating is to sit down with a bag of potato chips in front of your television. By the time the game is over, you could devour the entire bag without even realizing it.
A group of researchers from Cornell University hope to reduce some of this mindless overeating by providing people with edible “stop signs” that signal serving size.
“An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indication—such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl—to tell them when to stop eating,” study author Brian Wansink said on the Cornell website.
Wansink and his colleagues tested this concept by inserting chips dyed red in tubes of Lays Stackables. The chips were placed at different locations—every serving size (7 chips), two serving sizes (14 chips), 5 chips, or 10 chips.
The researchers gave the tubes of chips to college students while they were watching videos in class. The students had no idea why some chips were dyed red.
Students with the “stop sign” tubes ate 50 percent fewer chips than their classmates without the red indicator. The red chips also made it easier for students to estimate how much they had eaten afterwards, on average within one chip.
The red chips act by interrupting the mindless eating that, in turn, leads to overeating. By adding visual clues to snack food, people could reduce their portion sizes, which may also decease food intake.
Before “stop signs” appear in your favorite bag of chips, you can avoid eating too much by filling a bowl instead of eating directly from the bag.