You’d think it ironic that the worst food for you – junk food – seldom, if ever, comes packaged in portions. Or when it is, say, into 100-calorie packs? Calling that portion a “snack” would seem like an overstatement. Potato chips burn through 100 calories like a HUMMER burns through a gallon of gas: either way, you won’t be getting very far.
You could blame our overeating on the high price of pre-packaged and pore-portioned foods. More packaging, naturally, means a more expensive manufacturing process. I personally won’t ever purchase “100-Calorie” packs when I know I could purchase the full-size variant, and portion it out myself with some Ziploc bags.
Would I pay someone at a restaurant to cut my ribeye for me and box it up before I started eating? Nope. No, I wouldn’t.
However, coming home, and spending the time and effort to manage one’s own caloric intake is work most people don’t have the time, energy, or self-control to do. Snacks are largely a convenience food, and there’s nothing convenient about counting calories.
Luckily, the folks at Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab have come up with their own solution: edible serving-size markers.
You heard me: edible.
Can you eat the bag on your 100-calorie snack? Didn’t think so. Dissatisfied, have you considered eating the bag from your 100-calorie snack? I’m pretty sure you have.
How does it work? Well, their study used tubes of Lay’s “Stax” stackable potato chips.
Every 7 chips (a single serving), the next chip was dyed red. Interestingly enough, those in the test eating marked containers of chips not only ate 50% fewer chips (or 250 calories) than their peers, but moreover, were able to guess how many chips they consumed by a single chip. The other group? They underestimated how much they’d eaten by 13 chips.
How does it work? Well, the visual markers play off of the instinct some people have to use visual indication to mark their meal complete. It has nothing to do with actual hunger. Some folks will eat until they can see the bottom of their bowl, or until their plate’s dishwasher-clean and white.
Would you be more likely to buy snacks if they used portion-control markers? Many would say yes.
Think of this concept as making a shallower bowl, with the bottom higher than it usually is. Or gastric bypass for the potato chip can.
Which leads me to say this: the problem with American eating habits isn’t what we eat, but how we eat it.
There’s nothing wrong with having a bacon cheeseburger while you’re out with friends. Just don’t have a bacon cheeseburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re starting to notice your eating habits mirror Morgan Spurlock’s in “Super-Size Me,” that may be a small hint to start cutting back some.
What are your feelings about the current size and portion-control products? Would you be interested in ones with edible serving-size markers? Do you think the concept could be applied to other foods and snacks than stackable-style chips? Also, how do you think this could impact marketers?