“If we’re eating foods that offer less energy, we’ll consume less energy and still be able to eat these satisfying portions,” Cunningham said.
These can be water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, said study co-author Barbara Rolls, professor in the nutritional sciences department in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State.
Though slowing down eating might be an option for reducing overconsumption, it’s hard to do, Rolls said, and some evidence suggests that eating speed is a genetically based behavior.
“I think it’s clear that if people could be more mindful, slow down and pay attention, it could help them to eat less. But it’s like all of the things around weight management, it’s tough to actually get people to do it,” Rolls said.
In her lab, they sometimes change the calorie density of food, reducing it by 30% without people noticing, Rolls said. They do this by mixing in more vegetables, using more herbs and spices and just a little bit less fat, but maintaining high palatability. People can make these little changes at home, too.
The research will be presented this week at the American Society for Nutrition virtual annual meeting. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. The research was funded by Jenny Craig, Inc., and the U.S. National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“I’m honestly not surprised,” said Dana Hunnes, an adjunct assistant professor in the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, who was not involved in the study. “There’s been some data over the years that has indicated that as portion sizes have grown, people also tend to eat more.”
It can take between about 15 to 20 minutes for your body to acknowledge you’re getting full and starting to go through the digestion process, Hunnes said.
“It was interesting that they came to a conclusion that faster eating and larger bites also was related to eating more, but again that doesn’t really surprise me because I think it’s pretty well known that when people eat faster it takes longer to get full, and so therefore you tend to eat more and then larger bites, just bite for bite is getting more calories in,” she said.