large size buying = larger size you?

kathy_April 25, 2004

This article is similar to one I read in the Nutrition Action Healthletter - March edition. Unfortunately, the longer (and better) article has no link to it but this covers most of what was in the other article. This might make you think twice about buying the largest size of anything. Could give you larger clothes too. Brian Wansink has a lot of info if you do a search for his name. Kathy



By Joyce Howard Price



Philadelphia moviegoers given large buckets of stale popcorn described as

tasting "terrible" ate 31 percent more than those who received medium buckets of

the same unpleasant snack, according to a study.

The study is part of a wealth of research conducted by investigators at the

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has shown that large portions

or packages, proximity to food, short and wide glasses, taste expectations and

descriptive names for dishes are all factors in making people eat and drink


The research, led by professor Brian Wansink, also determined that consumers

are unaware that those factors contribute to the amount they eat and drink.

The people in the Philadelphia audience who munched on the old popcorn

weren't the only ones who proved that larger portions make people eat more.

On his Web site (, Mr. Wansink describes a study of

161 Chicago moviegoers who were given coupons for free popcorn and a soft drink

when they purchased their tickets. They were randomly given either a large or

medium container of popcorn.

Mr. Wansink could not be reached for comment, but he has an extensive

interview about his research in the current issue of Nutrition Action, a

newsletter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Asked if larger portions make people eat more, Mr. Wansink told CSPI, "Yes

... we found out [through the Chicago moviegoers study] that the people who were

given big buckets ate roughly 50 percent more than the people who were given

smaller buckets."

An abstract of the study on his Web site says moviegoers who rated the

popcorn as "tasting relatively unfavorably ate 61 percent more popcorn if

randomly given a large container than a smaller one."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Jill North, a graduate student at the

university who has assisted Mr. Wansink in his research, discussed another study

involving secretaries and their candy consumption.

University secretaries were asked to put a dish of chocolate either on their

desk or about six feet away from their desk. Each dish had 30 candies, some

bowls were clear, while other bowls were opaque.

Each night for four weeks, researchers secretly counted how many chocolates

each secretary ate that day and then refilled the bowl with 30 candies.

"The most significant drop [in the number of candies eaten] occurred if the

candy was away from a secretary's desk," Miss North said.

Mr. Wansink said about nine chocolates a day were eaten if the candy bowl

was clear and it was kept on the desk. Consumption dropped to 6 chocolates

daily if the candy was in an opaque container.

But if the bowl was six feet away, consumption averaged four chocolates per


Mr. Wansink noted that the five extra pieces of candy eaten daily by some

secretaries translates into 125 more calories per day.

Containers also play a part in drink consumption, according to Mr. Wansink.

He cited a study of children attending summer health-and-fitness camps. The

study found that those who drank from short, wide 22-ounce tumblers thought they

were drinking less than counterparts served in tall, skinny 22-ounce glasses.

"In reality, they poured 77 percent more into the short, wide glasses  11½

ounces instead of 6½ ounces," Mr. Wansink told Nutrition Action.

Other studies, Mr. Wansink said, found that if people expect something to

taste good, it probably will, and that consumers are more likely to believe a

dish with a fancy name tastes better than the same dish with a nondescript name.

Miss North said the research is important because it provides visual and

other cues that can influence how much a person eats.

"We know what's healthy, so why do people eat foods that aren't? These are

some of the factors, and people need to be a little more aware" of the effects

these factors have, she said.

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I am heading to that website to do more reading!
Thanks for sharing!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 4:38AM
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Great article!!!

I just recently had an experience with it. After making homemade soup/chile/stew, I freeze the leftovers for my husband to take to work for lunch. Until recently I used yogurt containers.

His friends were laughing at his "teensy little bit" of food because he's such a big guy (6'2 210).

I too thought it was a fairly small amount.... until... I was too lazy to make dinner one night so I pulled two of the yogurt containers out of the freezer, thawed them, and poured the contents into soup bowls.

I'm not exaggerating when I say it appeared to be twice as much!

My husband actually said these words.... "I'd like to start taking THIS amount to work... those little containers are just not filling enough."

So now he takes the exact same amount to work every day but it's in a wide, shallow dish that makes it appear to be twice as much food.

It sounds really silly... but try it! Seriously, 6 oz. of chile in a yogurt container appears to be a snack... while that same amount spread out in a soup bowl looks like lunch.

It's the "smaller plate" theory. A reasonable amount of food on a large plate looks skimpy... as if you're being deprived... which of course causes you to want seconds. But that same amount of food on a smaller plate looks like plenty... so it's satisfying.

Now I'm gonna go to the dessert exchange forum... bye :)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 7:19PM
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Thanks Candy! That is interesting about the soup looking like more in the bowl.
McPeg - isn't the stuff this guy is doing fascinating? Why didn't i see stuff like this when I was in school - would have strived to do these type of studies. Kathy

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 8:47AM
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