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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control


How much are we eating?

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, nutrition and health education specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


In the U.S., the number of people who are obese is increasing every year — Missouri’s obesity rate is 28.5 percent. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.


Research indicates that it isn’t necessarily what we are eating, but how much we are eating that is impacting obesity rates. Brian Wansink, author of the book Mindless Eating, has learned that regardless of what we have on our plate, most of us are eating more than we think.


One thing that may cause people to eat more is the size of food packages. For example, in one of Wansink’s studies, group members from the first group were given medium packages of spaghetti, sauce and meat, while members from the second group received large packages of the same food. The group that received the large packages prepared 23 percent more than the group with the smaller packages. Generally, people who receive a larger package of food eat 20 to 25 percent more than if they received a smaller package. That percentage increases for snack foods.


In another study, participants were given snacks while they watched a video. Half of the group got ½ pound of M&Ms and the other half got 1 pound. The people who received ½ pound consumed an average of 71 M&Ms, while the people who received 1 pound consumed an average of 137 M&Ms. The amount consumed increased by nearly 50 percent because of the size of the package.


The good news is that we will eat less if food is placed out of our reach. Wansink and his colleagues gave secretaries a dish of candy — some placed it on their desks, while others placed it 6 feet from their desk. The people who had the candy on their desk ate five more candies per day than the ones who had to move to get the candy.


It’s important to pay attention to the amounts of food we are eating. We can save ourselves calories by purchasing the smaller container, using a smaller plate or moving snacks out of reach. These minor changes will lower calorie intake and help decrease the risk of obesity.



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Last update: Tuesday, May 18, 2010