A (small) cookie a day keeps the doctor away

at 12:10 PM ET, 04/16/2012

When it comes to preventing obesity, portion size matters -- a lot. That’s the takeaway from a new study in the Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior. Kids who were offered cookies that had been cut in half ate fewer calories than kids offered whole cookies with the same total amount of calories as the total amount of the smaller sweets.

The experiment was a simple one: Schoolchildren in Belgium were offered either big or small cookies at snack time and told they could eat as much as they’d like. “Although all participants were served equivalent amounts of food, children offered small cookies consumed a significantly smaller gram weight than children offered large cookies,” the researchers found. That translated into 25 percent fewer calories consumed at snack time.

Sixty-eight calories may not seem like that much - it’s the equivalent of about half of a Snicker’s bar - but it actually matters a lot when it comes to preventing obesity. Researchers have found that even a small but sustained reduction in calorie consumption can have a meaningful impact on obesity rates.

A study this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that if kids ate just 64 fewer calories per day, by 2020 our childhood obesity rate would fall to 10 percent lower than where it stood in the early mid-2000s. Not too shabby for an intervention that’s as easy as cutting up cookies.

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