If you watch more shows like The Rachael Ray Show, Cake Boss, or Iron Chef as opposed to Homeland or Modern Family, chances are you’re eating more too. And if Rach makes a cheesy pasta dish that looks yum-o to you, don’t be surprised if you crave Italian, a new study says.
Researchers at William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, showed adults a 10-minute clip from either Planet Earth or Food Network. After watching the clip, participants had another 10 minutes to sample chocolate covered candies, cheese curls, and carrots.
Turns out those shown the cooking program ate about 40 more calories of candy than the animal watchers ate, while there was no difference between how much cheese curls or carrots the two groups ate. Since the Food Network segment featured sweet tarts, the study authors suggest that food shows prime the brain to desire the types of foods portrayed in the program.
This adds to previous research showing that food and beverage ads increase cravings for those specific products, and it’s also been proven that eating in front of the TV leads to overconsumption due to decreased satiety from mindless munching, plus the foods most often consumed when watching the boob tube are calorie-rich and nutrient poor—the same types of foods portrayed in ads and in most programs.
RELATED: Not all food porn is bad! Learn nine ways Pinterest improves your diet.
Since this new study shows that just 10 minutes of a food show may hijack your brain and lead to cravings, and too much couch time is consistently linked with increased calories consumed and lower activity levels, limit your limit total TV time to no more than two hours a day.
Fast-forward through TV ads if you have a DVR, otherwise exercise with your back toward the TV during commercials (that adds up to about a 22-minute workout per hour of programming). Also consider avoiding food shows that you know feature unhealthy choices if you find that they make your cravings too intense.
Be mindful of Pinterest “food porn” as well. In a study presented this fall at the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting, University of Southern California researchers explained how images of decadent foods act on the brain to increase hunger and cravings for treats.
If you’re Pinning to-die-for goodies from boards with names like “Mmmmmm,” “Goodies,” “Yummy,” or “Heaven on Earth,” chances are you’ll end up complaining about Pinterest pounds. Use social media to improve your diet instead by searching #healthy or #nutrition, and start creating new boards to help you build the body you want. Be sure to check out SHAPE’s Pinterest boards for lots of healthy inspiration!
Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is a registered dietitian and coauthor of The Real Skinny: 1001 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions (Penguin 2013) and cofounder of Appetite for Health.