USA Today reported recently that the mini, 'calorie-control' packages fast proliferating in the food supply may actually promote over-eating among the weight conscious crowd, rather than assist with weight control. The article cites research papers to be published in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, which I have not yet had a chance to review first hand. So I'll have more to say when I do.
For now: I'm not surprised. Small packs may change the number of calories in a given package, but they don't change the composition of the food in that package, or the number of calories it takes to feel full and satisfied. We can accept a general premise: provided that food is accessible, eating continues so long as the rewards of eating are greater than any penalties. The rewards include pleasure, relief of hunger, relief of stress, relief of boredom, etc. The penalties include uncomfortable fullness, feelings of guilt, inconvenience, etc.
Getting food from multiple small packs instead of one big one doesn't do much to tip the reward/penalty balance. The forthcoming research suggests that if anything, the smaller packages dis-inhibited weight-conscious eaters, who ate more, not less, because, perhaps, of the false sense of security the packaging provided.
My view has long been that what matters most about food is...the food. Wholesome, nutritious foods are good for us in many ways, one of them being that they tend to fill us up on fewer calories. Have you ever binged on apples? I rest my case.
There is research to suggest that food packaging can matter. But the food that is packaged matters far more. The true solution to both weight control and better health is not just to pretty up the cover, but to write a book of better recipes.
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