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Partitioning vegetables can increase consumption

Thursday, August 29, 2019 - 10:52am
By:
Alan Flurry

Not eating your fruits and vegetables can have serious health consequences, from obesity to macular degeneration. And many Americans, even those who have easy access to these healthy foods, stubbornly resist eating them.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have examined the psychology of how vegetables are presented and served, and how this affects consumption.

Previous research shows that people consume less of a particular food if it’s packaged separately in a smaller portion. For example, serving separately wrapped chocolates generally reduces consumption by making the eater more aware of the amount.

“For chocolates, people need to inhibit the desire to eat more. Each decision point offers a reminder that they should stop, and so increasing the decision points actually decreases consumption,” said Michelle vanDellen, associate professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology and lead author on the paper.

However, researchers posited that offering relatively less-appealing foods (like vegetables and other low-fat, low-sugar foods) in separate units might have the opposite effect and increase consumption.

“People need to initiate self-control to consume vegetables. More decision points might require more initiation. Separating food into a unit might reduce decision points. Because people also have an intrinsic desire for completion, they may be more likely to finish a unit or serving, even if these are made of relatively unappealing options,” vanDellen said.

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