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Just a bite: Considerably smaller snack portions satisfy delayed hunger and craving

Van Kleef, Ellen, Mitsuru Shimizu, and Brian Wansink (2013). Just a bite: Considerably smaller snack portions satisfy delayed hunger and cravingJournal of Food Quality and Preference, 27(1), 96-100. doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2012.06.008.

Snacking is a large contributor to the growing proportion of overweight individuals. Snacks are often consumed to satisfy hedonic hunger, or that which is more psychological than physiological. This study set out to determine how different portion sizes can satisfy hunger and craving when snacking. We hypothesized that individuals would claim that they were hungrier after eating a small snack but if asked 15 minutes later, they would report feeling equally as satisfied as those who ate a larger snack. 

The study was conducted with 104 undergraduate students who were presented with three frequently craved foods: chocolate, apple pie and potato chips. In one condition, students were presented with smaller portions of all three of these foods totaling 195 calories. In the other condition, participants were served large portions of these same foods totaling 1370 calories. In both conditions participants were told to eat as much as they like and to evaluate the foods. Hunger and overall craving were measured prior to eating, immediately after eating, and 15 minutes later. Participants were also asked after 15 minutes whether they would like more of these foods. Leftover foods were weighed to measure calories consumed. Reported hunger and cravings were compared to portion size, gender, BMI, restrained eating style score, and time since last eating episode.

Both male and female participants in the larger portion group ate 76.8% more calories than those in the small portion group. The hunger and craving scores in the small portion condition were equivalent to those in the large portion condition. Pre-test and immediate post-test hunger and craving scores were not significantly different between the two conditions. Furthermore, after 15 minutes craving had decreased in both conditions. This shows that over time the smaller portions were able to satiate participants to the same degree as larger, more calorically dense, portions. This finding has important implications for individual’s waistlines: smaller portions can answer hunger and cravings and make one equally satisfied!