The secret to losing weight could be as simple as choosing crunchier foods.
According to the findings of a study, we eat up to half as fast when we have to chew more – and may also feel fuller more quickly, consuming a fifth less.
Researchers gave 50 people four similar lunches – two classified as ultra-processed and two that were minimally processed.
Importantly, one meal in each category was harder and crunchier – making it harder to eat fast – while the other was easier to consume.
The study found people consumed 26 per cent fewer calories when the lunch had a harder texture, largely regardless of the degree of processing, since these meals could not be wolfed down as quickly.
The lowest average calorie intake in the study, of 483 calories, came when people ate the hard, minimally processed meal (stock photo)
Harder meals included boiled rice instead of soft mashed potato, a crunchy salad instead of coleslaw, and a chewy chicken breast instead of fish bites.
Among the other features were a hard fresh apple instead of canned soft mangos and thick, unflavoured yoghurt instead of a flavoured yoghurt drink, as well as a lumpier tomato salsa instead of tartare sauce.
The lunches contained the same amount of calories and were rated similarly on how good they tasted.
But people consumed fewer calories – about 300 calories less – of the harder, crunchier lunches because they ate less of them.
They appear to have eaten less because they had to chew their food more before swallowing, slowing the overall rate at which the meal was consumed by up to half.
The researchers believe that eating more slowly gives the body a better opportunity to keep track of the amount of food consumed, so that someone may realise they are full faster and stop eating.
Professor Ciarán Forde, senior author of the study from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: ‘We now have more than a decade of evidence that people choosing textures which encourage them to eat more slowly, like crunchier, harder or chewier foods, can help to consume fewer calories, while still feeling equally satisfied.
‘What is appealing in using meal textures to change behaviour and intake is that people can still enjoy eating the foods they like, while reducing the risk of over-consumption.
‘It means people can still enjoy a meal and eat until comfortably full, without having to feel restricted.’
The researchers believe that eating more slowly gives the body a better opportunity to keep track of the amount of food consumed (stock photo)
Among the other features were a hard fresh apple instead of canned soft mangos and thick, unflavoured yoghurt instead of a flavoured yoghurt drink, as well as a lumpier tomato salsa instead of tartare sauce (stock photo)
The lowest average calorie intake in the study, of 483 calories, came when people ate the hard, minimally processed meal and the highest intake, of 790 calories on average, came from the soft, ultra-processed meal.
The research team has previously studied the different aspects of food texture linked to eating speed and found that, even for a simple carrot, it can be eaten about three times more slowly if it is cut into larger, thicker segments with no mayonnaise to lubricate it during consumption.
To build on the current findings, the researchers – whose findings have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – will next look at whether meal texture and eating speed can influence calorie intake over a longer two-week period.
They aim to demonstrate for the first time that it is not just what you eat, but how you eat that may be driving the size of your meal.