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Small snack packs are smart and satisfying, say researchers

By Nathan Gray+

01-Feb-2013
Last updated on 01-Feb-2013 at 13:27 GMT

Smaller and larger snack portions are equally effective in decreasing cravings and feelings of hunger, say researchers.

Consumers need less than half of the portion size they believe they require in order to feel ‘satisfied’ from a snack, according to research published in Food Quality and Preference .

Using chocolate chips, apple pie, and potato chips, researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Cornell University in the USA tested the reaction of consumers’ in terms of hunger and satisfaction 15 minutes after eating different portion sizes.

“Results indicate that smaller portions satisfied one’s ratings of hunger and craving similar to larger portions, but led to a mean intake that was significantly lower than in the large portion condition,”  explain the researchers, led by Dr Ellen van Kleef from Wageningen.

“This study importantly showed that although providing larger portions increased snack calorie intake by 77% (103 calories), after 15 min, they do not reduce hunger or cravings any more than smaller portions.”

The team said that their findings suggest that the provision of smaller portions of commonly craved foods would provide similar levels of ‘fulfilment of desire’ compared to larger portions, while restricting caloric intakes.

“Smaller servings of snacks could support people in controlling their body weight, although more research is needed to unravel the mechanisms behind our findings and gain a better understanding of the implications for overall energy intake,” said van Kleef and her team.

Study details

In the new study, 104 consumers were given either a small or large portion of chocolate, apple pie, potato chips

The two groups were given as much time to eat as needed, and were asked to fill out surveys to rate the liking, familiarity, and boredom with the food. They were also asked to rate their hunger and craving before the food was presented and fifteen minutes after the taste tests ended.

Results showed that smaller portion sizes are capable of providing similar feelings of satisfaction as larger ones, with those given larger portions consuming 77% more food, amounting to 103 calories more. However, they did not feel any appetite enhancing or stronger feelings of satiety than the group with the smaller portions, said the research team.

The researchers said the findings reflect the importance of portion size: “While larger portions result in increased food intake, smaller portions may make you feel equally satisfied.”

“An additional caloric intake of about 100 calories, as found in this study, could lead to substantial increases in intake over an entire day,” they said. “Small portion sizes can lead to a similar decline in hunger and desire and in this way help people to limit intake.”

Source: Food Quality and Preference
Volume 27, Issue 1 , Pages 96–100, doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2012.06.008
“Just a bite: Considerably smaller snack portions satisfy delayed hunger and craving”
Authors: Ellen van Kleef, Mitsuru Shimizu, Brian Wansink

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