Ease up on the pour—of your breakfast cereal, that is. Recent research conducted at Penn State and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that cereal that is physically smaller in size prompts people to ingest more calories.
In other words, people eat more breakfast cereal, by weight, when flake size is reduced, according to the researchers, who showed that when flakes are reduced by crushing, people pour a smaller volume of cereal into their bowls, but still take a greater amount by weight and calories.
In the study, the researchers had 41 adults eat cereal at breakfast once a week. The subjects were divided into four groups and given different cereal sizes: one group with standard wheat flakes, one with the same cereal crushed to take up 80% of its original volume, a third to 60% of its original volume and the fourth ground to 40% of its original volume. All groups received 140 grams of cereal.
The groups all tended to pour the same volume of cereal into their bowls. But the group with the smallest cereal tended to pour bowls that were significantly higher in calories than the bowls with the larger flakes. In fact, the group with the smallest flakes tended to consume, on average, 81 more calories per bowl of cereal. It might not seem like much, but over a seven day week, it adds up to an extra 567 calories: more than a Whopper with no mayo.
“When faced with decreasing volumes of cereal, the people took less cereal,” Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, said in a press release. “Yet, even though they thought they were taking the same number of calories, they ended up significantly overeating.”
Instead of loading up on small cereals that you think will help you eat less and lose weight, choose a larger flake size, which won’t allow you to pack a ton of calories into a small space. Unfrosted Mini-Wheats are a great option—check them out here.