LMU Newsroom

Eating too much nutritious food can still lead to weight gain or other issues, research has found. But would overconsumption still occur if these so-called healthy foods came in smaller portions?

A Loyola Marymount University investigation published this month in the Journal of Business Research found that consumers may eat less when those perceived healthy snacks are sold in smaller packages. Myla Bui, associate professor of marketing in the College of Business Administration, conducted the three related studies with faculty members from Wayne State University and Vanderbilt University.

“There are unintended consequences to having preconceived ideas of the healthfulness of foods, as this can lead to overeating,” said Bui, who specializes in consumer food and health decision-making processes. “But packaging that offers smaller, single servings of these foods seems to provide a strong cue for how much to consume, and may influence healthier eating habits.”

The studies measured participants’ intended consumption, and actual consumption, of a snack perceived as healthy – granola – along with another considered unhealthy – cookies. Both snacks actually had similar calorie profiles. The participants were offered both kinds of snacks in either a 16-piece bag, smaller bags carrying four snacks apiece, or in single-serving packages.

In each case, participants either intended to, or actually did, eat more of the granola product when it was in the larger bag, compared to when it was divided into smaller serving sizes, the research shows.

Additionally, the research found that the participants ate fewer cookies than granola bites when presented in the large bags, perhaps because they felt more guilt about eating something unhealthy.

“These findings suggest that marketing retailers, researchers and public policy makers should be paying more attention to how ‘healthy’ food products are packaged,” the study states.

The full article can be found here.