Small food packages lead to big weight gain


Our earlier story about the Hot Pockets recall dovetails nicely with a story about the results of a recently study of our eating habits. A team of European scientists that found that, contrary to expectations, consumers eat more snacks when they are packaged in small portions than when put up in larger batches.

The study subjects were questioned about their body issues, to put them in a frame of mind sensitive to food issues, then plopped in front of televisions to watch episodes of Friends. They were told the purpose was to measure their reaction to the commercials shown during the episodes, but, in reality, the scientists were watching their consumption of potato chips.

The study determined that subjects ate more potato chips when served in small bags than they did when presented in larger bags. The study concluded that people hesitate to open a large bag, but not a small one, or even a series of small ones.

Certainly the truth of this find is demonstrated on every grocery shelf. Would manufacturers push single-serving sizes if it didn't drive up consumption? This psychology works on me, I must admit. On opening a large bag of chips, I tend to eat as many as it takes to satisfy me. When I open a single serving, I eat it all, regardless of my sense of satiation. If I'm not quite full yet, I'll open another and finish that off. I'm not alone in this thinking, I know; it drives my wife nuts when I drink 2/3rds of a bottle of beer, because that's all I want.

The lesson I've taken from this study? Single-serving packaging is not a good tool for those of us trying to control our eating, because only we know what represents a single serving to us.

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