Our increasingly harried lives are driving a shift toward eating more grab-and-go snack foods instead of sit-down meals, but research published in Appetite in January 2018 shows that just seeing the word snack on a food label may lead us to eat more.

In the study, people were asked to eat pasta presented as a snack (consumed from a plastic pot with a plastic fork, while standing) or as a meal (consumed from a ceramic plate using a metal fork, while seated at a table); afterward, they were offered unhealthy nibbles, including M&Ms and crackers. The result: Those who ate the “snack” pasta consumed more calories afterward than those who ate the “meal” pasta sitting at a table.

It could be that we focus less on what we are eating when we think we’re snacking, and we’re therefore less conscious of our consumption, leading to overeating later on. To keep snacking from taking a toll on your health and waistline, it’s a good idea to think of what you eat as a meal and to sit down to eat it, even if it’s just a single-serving yogurt or handful of nuts.

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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