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Dining with Distractions? Take Smaller Bites

Eating in front of the flat-screen again? Shrinking your bite or sip size could curb calorie intake by 30 percent, according to a new study.

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If you’ve ever starred down at an empty plate five minutes into the latest episode of Spartacus, you probably know that eating when you’re distracted can lead you to consume more calories than intended. But a new study from the journal PLoS ONE found that taking smaller bites while you're watching TV or socializing could curb calorie intake by 30 percent.

Dutch researchers asked healthy men and women between ages 18 and 35 to eat tomato soup with and without a distraction (in this case, watching a 15-minute animated film). Participants were split into three groups: those who took pre-measured small sips, pre-measured large sips, and those who freely sipped any size. All groups were allowed to sip as often as they pleased.

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Here are the highlights from the findings:

  • Whether people took large or “free” sips, they consumed the same amount of soup — 30 percent more than that of the small sippers.
  • People underestimated how much they consumed when they took large sips, but those who took small sips tended to overestimate consumption.
  • Distracted individuals ate 5 to 11 percent more and took 11 percent more sips.
  • Those who took small sips reported being the least full shortly after eating, but after one, two, and three hours there was no reported difference in satiety levels.
  • Distracted diners ate for a longer period of time and took fewer bites per minute.

The good news is you can still enjoy your dinner in front of the TV. Just be more aware of your bite size, says lead researcher Dieuwerke Bolhuis. He recommends eating with smaller spoons and forks. Another option? “Choose foods that force you to take smaller bites, like foods with harder texture--hard bread versus soft bread, for example.”

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