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New research shows food labelled 'snacks' lead to over-eating

Photo: Food labelled 'snacks' lead to over-eating
Researchers at Britain's University of Surrey have found an association between overeating and the consumption of meals marketed as 'snacks'.

Avoiding meals marketed as a 'snack' could prevent overeating and weight gain, new research suggests.

A UK study published in journal Appetite examined the impact of labelling food products as 'snacks' or 'meals'.

The researchers at the University of Surrey found an association between overeating and the consumption of the 'snacks'.

"With our lives getting busier, increasing numbers of people are eating on the go and consuming foods that are labelled as 'snacks' to sustain them. What we have found is that those who are consuming snacks are more likely to over-eat as they may not realise or even remember what they have eaten," Professor in Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, Jane Ogden, said.
"To overcome this, we should call our food a meal and eat it as a meal, helping make us more aware of what we are eating so that we don't over-eat later on."

For the investigation, 80 participants were asked to eat a pasta pot which was either labelled as a snack or a meal.

The 'snack' pots were eaten standing up with a plastic fork and the 'meal' pots consumed seated at a table with a ceramic plate and metal fork.

Once consumed, participants were then invited to take part in an additional taste test of different foods, including biscuits, M&M's and mini cheddar cheese bits.

The researchers found that those who had eaten pasta labelled as a 'snack' consumed 50 per cent more in total calories and 100 per cent more M&Ms.

The overeating was attributed to a combination of factors, one being when eating a snack people are more easily distracted and aren't conscious of their food consumption.

Obesity researcher and weight loss expert Dr Nick Fuller - author of Interval Weight Loss - says while a lot of people do lead time-poor lives, it is not a good enough excuse for eating packaged 'snacks', which are usually full of calories and lack nutrients.

Dr Fuller says overeating and the need to snack - particular at the end of the day in front of the TV - can be avoided if people consume regular small meals throughout the day.

"So we have the majority of our food at the start of the day and less at the end of the day; our biggest meal at breakfast and our smallest meal at dinner," Dr Fuller said.

Morning tea and afternoon tea are also ok.

"It's about surrounding you with nutritious and wholesome foods."

He says enjoying a meal is also important to maintaining a healthy weight.

"It shouldn't be just something we are snacking on and having on the go," rather people needed to be able to devote time to their meal and recognise the importance of the food they are eating, he said.

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