It is true that the average american adult spends a lot of time in front of screens, between work and vegging out at home you might spend up to 11 hours staring at one. But while you are on the screens you might be mindlessly reaching to snacks according to a new report from researchers at Endicott College and Michigan State University
This new study says that people under-report just how much they actually eat while distracted by multitasking, and the most surprising this is that you might under-report how much HEALTHY food you eat more than the junk food. It seems that we pay more attention to the garbage food we eat than the good stuff.
“Our study investigated ‘mindless’ snacking with healthful and less healthful foods,” said Anastasia Kononova, Ph.D., of Michigan State University. “The findings show that participants ate greater amounts of healthy foods than they realized when they were multitasking with screen devices. But this happened only when participants enjoyed the multitasking situation.”
The researchers though want to turn this into an advantage by recommending that people snack smarter. If we do spend so much time in front of a screen an pay so little attention to what we are eating when we are distracted like that, why not keep fruits, vegetables, and nuts on hand!
“Doctors and nutritionists have long held that it’s a bad idea to idly watch TV or pay attention to one’s phone while eating unhealthy snacks,” said Anna McAlister, Ph.D., of the Gerrish School of Business at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. “But what if we start to encourage similar [snacking] habits, but substitute foods rich in nutrients? We could then tip the scales in favor of a healthy diet.”
The trick is to use that to help Americans eat more plant-baed healthy foods since now only 9 percent get the recommended daily 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Here are some of the studies findings:
- When participants used 3 screens to watch TV while simultaneously texting and shopping online, they misremembered the foods they had eaten. They under-reported their consumption of healthy foods and unhealthy foods, but this effect was more common for healthy foods.
- Participants described the situation of watching TV while texting and shopping online as pleasant.
- Participants who had more positive beliefs about a healthy lifestyle said they were more rational than emotional about snack selection.
“Surrounding oneself with snack-sized fruits, vegetables, and nuts in enjoyable multitasking situations means mindless eating can be a powerful nudge to facilitate greater consumption of preferred foods to combat health issues,” said Dr. McAlister.
During the study, each participant was seated alone in a room that simulated a living room with snacks on a lazy Susan rotating plate. Snacks included potato chips, sugar candy, M&Ms, and healthier items (baby-cut carrots, cherry tomatoes, and almonds). Every participant was instructed to watch a sitcom episode selected by the researchers. Some watched the show only; others were also asked to multi-task by either watching the show while texting or by adding a third element like shopping online, a scenario the researchers considered not unusual, especially among high school and college students.
Snacks were weighed before and after the experiment, allowing researchers to know exactly how much of each was consumed. As expected, some participants under-reported their consumption of unhealthy snacks, but, surprisingly, some under-reported their healthy snack consumption. This was considered significant, suggesting that mindless eating may be a powerful tool to encourage nutritious snacking.
This is why they are giving a recommendation, based on these findings, that when you are sitting in front of a TV, computer, and/or phone for hours, choose healthier snacks to have in front of you.
That’s some smart advice from Endicott College and Michigan State University.