Overeating is easy if you're not paying attention. People rarely focus on every bite that goes into their mouths, says Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab. Dr. Wansink has identified several mistakes people make that cause them to mindlessly overeat. Keep clicking to see if you're making any of the food goofs...
Mistake: Using short glasses
Think a little glass will keep you from drinking too much? Short glasses tend to be wider than tall ones, and studies show that the visual illusion causes people to pour an average of 34 percent more liquid into short glasses than tall narrow ones.
Mistake: Going overboard on olive oil
Olive oil is a healthier companion to your bread than butter, that's for sure. But hidden cameras at Italian restaurants show that people who put olive oil on a piece bread put 26.2 percent more olive oil onto their bread than butter.
Credit: Flickr/Tristan Kenney
Mistake: Falling for descriptive menu labels
People tend to eat more out at restaurants than they do at home - and it's not just because of the large portion sizes. Yummy descriptions on restaurant menus lure people into ordering more food. The Food & Brand Lab's study found that descriptive menu-item labels increase food sales and improve the attitudes customers have toward food and the restaurant. For example, a dessert labeled "Black Forest Double-Chocolate Cake" increased sales by 27 percent more than if it were just labeled chocolate cake.
Mistake: Keeping food within reach
Pantries exist for a reason - be wary of what you leave out. As the Food & Brand Lab put it, "the farther you have to walk the less you eat." College secretaries were found to eat twice as many chocolate kisses (9 versus 4) when these kisses were placed on their desks than when they were placed 6 feet away. They were also more likely to lose track of how many they had eaten.
Same goes for any kind of snack. When foods are sitting out, people tend to "graze" and eat them more frequently.
Mistake: Eating out of a large tub of popcorn
Going to the movies? A suspenseful film might suck you in - as does a large tub of popcorn. Moviegoers who were given large popcorn containers ate 45 percent more than those given medium containers, the Food & Brand Lab found. Not only that - researchers found this even happened when the popcorn was 10 days old. Big packages encourage overeating, even if the food is stale.
Mistake: Pouring out of large packages
Family-size packages might save you money, but they're also dangerous for your belly. Five studies with 691 adults across 48 product categories show that people pour more out of larger packages, says the Food & Brand Lab. Large package sizes increase consumption an average of 22 percent. Why? Because people subconsciously think that cost is cheaper in large packages, so they're more generous with their servings.
Credit: Flickr/Martin Cathrae
Mistake: Using big bowls and plates
Big plates lead to big meals. Even a kid's cereal bowl can be a trap, according to Dr. Wansink. One study showed children who were given a 16 ounce bowl were more likely to go overboard on cereal than children given an 8 ounce bowl.