As my cousin Cathy once said, "When I think of all the reasons I eat, hunger has very little to do with it." How true. There is more psychology involved in eating than one may think, and there is a lot of interesting food research out there to report on. Not all of it is low carb or Paleo, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Since I am a marketing professor, I have decided to report on some of the interesting food research that I stumble across in the academic marketing literature. I will link to abstracts and full text articles whenever possible, though if you don't have academic access, you may not be able to pull up the full article. But fear not: I will summarize them in plain English and avoid the statistics and academic-speak.
Today's topic: diet "food" in 100-calorie packages. According to this article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, chronic dieters perceive that if a food, such as M&Ms, comes in a 100-calorie pack, it is a diet food. This perception can prompt chronic dieters to overeat the "diet food" contained in the 100-calorie pack. The authors caution dieters to be wary of "foods" contained in 100-calorie packs.
In a second study about small packages of food, this article, also in the same issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, shows that large packages trigger concerns of overeating in chronic dieters, but small packages do not trigger the same concerns. In fact, small packages actually encourage chronic dieters to eat more.
In this clever study, one group of participants had their dietary concerns "activated" by taking surveys about dieting and thinness and by being weighed and measured in front of mirrors. They were then asked to evaluate commercials during an episode of Friends. Another group was given the same task, but did not take the dieting surveys and were not weighed and measured prior to watching Friends. The research participants thought they would be evaluating TV advertisements, but that was really a distraction from the true purpose of the study. The researchers actually monitored how many potato chips participants consumed during the TV show.
The catch: the chips came in large bags and small bags. The group whose dietary concerns were activated by the survey and the weigh in did not consumer very many chips from the large bags, but ate a lot of chips from the small bags. The control group ate roughly the same amount of chips from large or small bags.
The takeaway: dieters actually consume more high-calorie snacks when they are in small packages rather than large packages.
So, combining the results from the two studies, dieters perceive food in 100-calorie packages to be diet food, and they will eat more of them, even if they are, in reality, high calorie snacks.
Do we in the low carb/Paleo communities fall prey to this, too? I know I have, in the past. For example, these 10 gram, 70% dark chocolate mignonettes each have three grams of carbs, one gram of fiber (for two net grams of carbs), 3 grams of saturated fat in the healthy cocoa butter, and 59 calories. Isn't that a perfect, low carb food? Yes--if you eat one piece. But if you perceive it to be "diet" food and overeat it, then no, it is not good for you and is in reality a high-calorie snack.