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This One Kitchen Habit May Be Making You Overeat, New Study Says

The good news is that you can turn it into a healthy habit.
FACT CHECKED BY Cheyenne Buckingham

The everyday task of preparing food or even watching others prep meals on a cooking show could increase how much you eat afterward, according to a study published in the journal Appetite.

Researchers recruited 80 women and assigned them to one of four groups: active food preparation of a cheese wrap, watching a video of someone making a cheese wrap, doing a distracting activity like coloring, and a control group. Afterward, all groups were asked to eat the wrap. (Related: 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make).

They found that those who had been involved in making or watching the snack prep ate more than participants in the other two groups, and also expressed more hunger beforehand than the coloring and control participants.

The tendency to consume more could be a good thing, says the study's co-author, Jane Ogden, PhD, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey in the UK. Although overeating would be a problem if you're making unhealthy foods or watching cooking shows of those kinds of foods—for example, a show like "Cake Boss" or "Cupcake Wars"—it would actually be beneficial if you're focused on making healthy meals.

For instance, you may be able to increase your consumption of beneficial foods like dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and fatty fish if you prepare them yourself, compared to having them in a frozen meal or takeout.

"This indicates there's a connection between attention and hunger, as well as food intake," says Ogden. "Both active food preparation and watching food being prepared resulted in increased motivation to eat. If you're looking to adopt healthier eating behavior, you can take advantage of this for better habits."

Another bonus, she adds, is that previous research indicates this works very well with children, which means getting them involved in meal prep—even with foods they claim to hate—can not only increase their motivation to eat them, but is also likely to make them try new foods.

That holds true for watching healthy cooking shows as well, in the same way, that it benefits adults. A study published last year in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that kids are twice as likely to eat healthy foods if they watch shows where those foods are featured.

For more, be sure to check out 9 Eating Habits That Are Hurting Your Sleep, According to Doctors.

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Read more about Elizabeth
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