Single Serving Packs Don’t Curb Overeating

100 Calorie PacksIn a study to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers from the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal suggest that single-serve packages do little to curb overeating and may actually lead consumers to eat more.

To determine the impact of smaller, individually packaged food items on overall consumption, researchers in one experiment asked students to consider their body shape and then gave them potato chips and instructed them to watch television. According to researchers, the students ate nearly twice as many chips when they were packaged in nine small bags as opposed to two larger ones. In addition, the students in the experiment showed fewer signs of hesitation before opening the smaller bags than they did when opening the larger ones.

Aptly titled “Flying Under the Radar,” the study concludes that smaller serving sizes of tempting foods – such as potato chips and ice cream – are more likely to go unnoticed than foods in larger portion sizes, leading to over-consumption and a reduced sense of what the researchers call “self-control conflict,” which is thought to prevent many of us from overeating.

This study (PDF) runs counter to a November 2007 study conducted by a marketing professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., that suggested that when food is “partitioned” into smaller servings, people actually eat less. In this study, for example, it took study participants given a box of cookies six days to finish the whole thing, while those given the same quantity of individually wrapped cookies took an average of 24 days to polish off the box.

While both studies present a compelling argument regarding the pros and cons of reduced serving size foods, the bigger issue is the snacks themselves. Just because an Oreo comes in a 100 calorie packet, it’s still the same, nutritionally speaking, as eating about two regular Oreos.

You could argue that much of the allure of the single-serving packets is that they are portable and convenient and, while we’re inclined to agree, is it really that taxing to throw some almonds or walnuts in your bag? Not only are these foods equally – if not more – convenient, they are also cheaper, more filling (seriously, a 100 calorie packet of cheese doodles isn’t going to get you through that late afternoon slump!) and far, far healthier!

Our verdict? If you can’t cut out your snack foods altogether, when it comes to serving size, it might just be better to “go big or go home” (although, admittedly, we’ll always vote for you to just go home and have a salad or something…)

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Further Reading:

Top 10 Junk Foods in Disguise

Top 10 Fast Foods in Disguise

Smart Fuel: Almond

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7 thoughts on “Single Serving Packs Don’t Curb Overeating”

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  1. I tried all the fat free, fatless, low fat stuff – but the only thing that has ever worked for me is portion control (of regular foods). So I agree with the study!

  2. I’m likely to agree with this one too. If I am given a small bag of something, I’ll finish the whole thing, whether I really want it or not. If I’m eating out of a bigger bag, I’ll pull out reasonable portions for myself. I even eat ice cream straight out of the container because I tend to eat *less* that way – I’m more aware than if it is scooped into a bowl, because then I (or my husband) scoop too much and we finish whatever is in the bowl.

    And yes, if you eat real foods, and not the kinds of foods that can be packed into “100-calorie packs,” then you’ll probably be more okay without even really trying. What would a 100-calorie pack of broccoli look like?

  3. My #1 peeve about these silly packs and most “diet” foods for that matter is that they are still 100% junk but they lack 99% of the satisfaction power of indulging in a rare treat of something you really want. Oreos are nostalgic for me. I love the things. And if I really want an Oreo I think I would go ahead and have one but these packs of oreo “things” aren’t really oreos they are weird bland crackers and I could eat a whole box of packs and have 0 satisfaction.

    The 2nd horrible thing about them is that they propagate the idea that a 100 calorie pack of “oreos” is something you could eat daily as a snack. That is rubbish. I haven’t had an oreo in probably over a year but if I loved them that much I would have a couple oreos a couple times a year maybe not a pile of this junk daily.

    My diet is far from perfect but if I want to indulge you better believe that 99% of the time it is going to be in something really good and always the genuine article. I read so many blogs of people try to lose weight and they are finding all these foods that are 1 point and they get so excited but they are still eating junk only less satisfying junk. Arhgghgh okay vent over.

  4. Interesting, because there have been studies that show that whenever you have to pause to think about continuing to eat, you’re more likely to stop.

  5. Give please. Never rely on the glory of the morning nor the smiles of your mother-in-law.
    I am from Colombia and bad know English, give true I wrote the following sentence: “Cheap airfares and airline tickets with faredetective.”

    Best regards 8), Alger.