You know how it goes: You’re snacking on potato chips, and all of a sudden you seem to magically reach the end of the bag. How did that happen? There go all the calories that should have gone into your lunch and dinner. The problem with potato chips—and most snack foods—is that there is no way to tell while you’re eating if you’ve munched on more than a single serving size. You could count out the chips, but who will take the time to do that?
Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab has figured out a way to count out the chips for you, offering a subtle reminder when you’ve hit the serving size limit. The lab recently conducted an experiment with two groups of college students, all of whom were served Lays Stackables chips while watching videos in class. Some of the students got regular tubes of chips, and some received chips that were intermittently dyed red (these indicated serving size).
The first study used red chips at the seven and 14 chip markers. In the second study, red chips popped up every five and 10 regular chips. The result: The students with the red chips—who had no idea why some of their chips were oddly colored—ate 50% less than the students who got regular chips. They also could guess more accurately (within one chip) how many chips they had gobbled down. The control group underestimated what they ate by approximately 13 chips.
Brian Wansink, Cornell Food and Brand Lab director, explained why this may have happened in a statement: "An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indications—such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl—to tell them when to stop eating. By inserting visual markers in a snack food package, we may be helping them to monitor how much they are eating and interrupt their semiautomated eating habits."
Lays Stackables are uniquely suited for this tactic because they’re in a tube; potato chips in a large bag wouldn’t really work. But we can imagine other kinds of food that would work well with the dyeing approach: blocks of cheese, cookies, and cake could be some high-calorie targets to start with.
In the meantime, this shaming fridge lock might help keep your calorie consumption down.