Bite-size snacks are one of the biggest trends in the food world. And they’re good for food manufacturers – but not so good for us.
Studies have found that when candies are individually wrapped, they take longer to eat – like Hershey’s Kisses in foil, or individually wrapped Reese’s peanut butter cups. That’s a good thing, if you’re trying to watch how much you’re eating. But it also means you’re not going to eat those foods on-the-go. Because, if you’re driving, for example, you can’t take two hands off the wheel to unwrap a Hershey’s kiss.
Well, food manufactures want to capture that on-the-go customer. They call it "hand-to-mouth" eating. So the latest trend is to make bite-size snacks we can eat with one hand – and grab a handful on the fly. Food makers hope that if they do that, we’ll eat more. And they’re right. So far this year, sales of unwrapped mini-candy is up 15-percent. But here’s the problem. We don’t just grab a handful. We’re more likely to eat an entire bag of chocolates if we don’t have to stop to unwrap them one at a time. In fact, a study found that we consume 41-percent fewer calories when we eat foods in shells or wrappers.
Because having to crack the shell on a nut, or peel off a wrapper on a piece of candy, slows us down. It allows our body more time to send out “I’m full” signals. Plus, when we see a pile of candy wrappers, it’s easier to see when we’ve had enough.
Brian Wansink, from the Cornell Food & Brand Lab, says we’re “woefully inept” at knowing when to hit the brakes on food. Plus, there are some people who think of bite-size food as “zero calorie.” Basically, if it’s just a bite, it doesn’t count! The problem is, we don’t stop at one bite.
So the next time you’re grabbing a snack – you may want to stick with a mini-Reese’s cup that’s wrapped.