Cutting your food into smaller pieces can trick you into eating less while making you feel more full, according to researchers at Arizona State University. In separate studies with rats and humans they found that “multiple pieces of food are more rewarding than an equicaloric single piece of food in both animals and humans.” Here’s what they think is going on:
Both humans and animals use number as a cue to judge quantities of food, with larger numbers usually associated with larger quantities. Therefore, a food portion cut into multiple, bite-sized pieces may perceptually look [like] more and therefore elicit greater satiation than the same portion presented as a single, large piece.
In the study involving humans, researchers gave 301 college students a bagel weighing 82g. Half of the students were given a solid bagel while the other half were given a bagel that had been cut into quarters. Twenty minutes after eating their bagels, both sets of students were then given a complimentary lunch and allowed to eat as much as they wanted.
Not only did the students who received the whole bagel consume more lunch calories than the other students, they also ate more of the bagel than their counterparts did. Devina Wadhera, the lead author of the study, concludes that “cutting up energy-dense meal foods into smaller pieces may be beneficial to dieters who wish to make their meal more satiating while also maintaining portion control.”