Slimmers who set calorie limits for each meal are more likely to eat less, new study finds

Slimmers who set themselves a calorie limit for each meal rather than per day are more likely to eat less, researchers have found.

A study at Warwick Business School asked dieters to set a ‘budget’ for their calorie intake.

The results, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, showed that dieters who set a budget per meal and per snack had an average daily allowance of 1,528 calories.

The second group, who thought about what they ate overall, budgeted for 2,011 calories per day on average.

Both groups ate less than their allowance. Those budgeting for each meal separately actually consumed an average of 1,417 calories, 219 fewer than those with a single daily limit.

Study leader Dr Miaolei Jia who led the study, said: ‘Those with a daily budget thought about cutting calories for meals such as dinner and snacks, where they thought they were most likely to over-consume, but did not think about other meals.

‘Those who budgeted on a meal-by-meal approach cut the calories in all the meals they ate, which drove down their daily allowance.’

Aradhna Krishna, from the University of Michigan, who also worked on the study, said the approach may also work for those wishing to reduce smoking or drinking.

She said: ‘Our results are not just relevant for controlling how much one eats, but also how much one smokes or drink – any context where people have a motive to reduce their consumption.’