The Sneaky Thing That can Cause You to Overeat

We might be better off buying food with plain packaging, a new study shows.



The way certain foods are depicted on the package can influence how much of it we eat, new research suggests. 

To put things in perspective, consider the fact that a typical slice of cake pictured on a box of cake-mix, for example, contains approximately 135% more calories than the recommended serving size. In other words, it's a seriously unrealistic portion. 

Researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab have found that when cake-mix boxes feature images of icing-topped slabs of cake, consumers significantly overestimate the serving size. They end up eating larger slices (and more calories) than what the nutrition label recommends.  

'If we see a slice of cake smothered in icing on the cake box, we think that is what is normal to serve and eat, but that's not what is reflected in the serving size recommendation on the nutrition label,' said lead author and researcher John Brand, Ph.D., in a statement. 

Brand and his team surveyed 72 undergraduates and 44 women working in food service and found that both groups overestimated portion size after looking at frosted cake on the front of the box. The women, in particular, overestimated by 122 calories per serving — proof that 'seemingly small elements of packaging can have a huge impact,' said team researcher and Cornell professor Brian Wansink. 

A possible solution? Printing the phrase 'icing not included on the nutritional labeling' on the box, which apparently resulted in a more accurate serving-size estimation. But we can't imagine companies doing this — as researchers have suggested — any time soon, so perhaps we should all print this disclaimer out and post in on our refrigerators.

Whatever it takes, right?

Via Good Housekeeping