I’m pretty sure that most of us have had that experience where we open a package of our favorite (insert: candy, chips, chocolate) for a little taste… and the next thing you know, it’s gone! In an effort to discover ways to help us curb our snacking habits, researchers have discovered that inserting the occasional red potato chip into a stack of regular chips helped to curb snack size by over 50%!
The study, just published in the journal Health Psychology, asked a group of American undergraduate students to eat chips from a tube while watching a movie. Red chips were inserted at regular intervals (eg every 5th chip) in one group, with no red chips in the tubes of the other group.
They found that when red chips were inserted, the number of chips consumed was reduced by more than 50%. Further, when participants were asked how much they ate, they were more accurate in their estimates when the red chips were inserted, compared to when there were no red chips inserted.
So what does this teach us? It seems that having a natural ‘break’ in a snack, in this case created by a different color, helps us to curb our portions. This may be because the alternate color gives us pause to actually think about the fact that we are eating (ie avoiding Mindless Eating), or to think about how much we have eaten, or how much we should be eating. It is also possible that the color gives us a subconscious cue to portion control.
Perhaps in the future, we will see a new wave of colored snack products on the shelves in response to this study. In the meantime, think about what your favorite snacks are, and how you could adapt them to take advantage of these findings. I’d be thrilled to hear your ideas!