Can you really cut daily calories by eating your meals more slowly? Researchers from Texas Christian University tackled this question by recruiting 70 men and women - half of them were of normal weight, and half were overweight or obese. In a research kitchen, the study participants were asked to eat an unlimited lunch slowly, pausing to put down their spoons during the meal, taking small bites and chewing slowly. At the next session, the groups were instructed to consume the food as quickly as possible, not putting down their spoons, taking big bites and chewing quickly. The researchers reported that the normal weight participants consumed 88 fewer calories during the slow meal than they did during the fast one. However, the overweight and obese participants consumed only 58 calories less during the slow meal, although at both meals they consumed fewer calories overall than the normal weight subjects, the investigators reported. What’s more, both the normal weight and the overweight/obese participants reported being less hungry an hour after the slow meal than after the fast one. The main message here is that making an effort to eat more slowly may cut calories, enhance your enjoyment of your meals and keep you feeling full longer.
My take? I have long promoted mindfulness as a central strategy in building a healthy lifestyle. You might be able to cut calories a bit simply by paying attention to eating slowly, as this study suggests. Leisurely meals, in good company, can be a welcome change from the fast pace of 21st century life. One of the goals of the slow food movement - viewed as an antidote to fast food culture, microwave cooking, and eat-on-the-run meals - is to encourage us to slow down and reflect on our meals so that we can truly enjoy our food and drink. Bear in mind, however, that if you want to lose weight, what works in the long run is putting fewer calories on your plate. To lose weight while maintaining or improving your health, I recommend my anti-inflammatory diet coupled with calorie-consciousness and daily physical activity.
Meena Shah, at al “Slower Eating Speed Lowers Energy Intake in Normal-Weight but not Overweight/Obese Subjects,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published online January 2, 2014