Making sandwiches for science

Making sandwiches for science

Djoerke Bollhuis, a researcher at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, studies our eating behaviour. Ha Latest posts Focuses on bread.

“We knew from previous research that the surface size of a product affects the amount of sauce or toppings you eat with it,” says Djoerke Bolhuis. “Sauces and toppings are often high-calorie products. In addition, people eat faster if the food is soft or spread with butter or jam, for example. And if you eat faster, you often eat more. All this got me thinking.

Bollhuis asked participants to come to her lab for breakfast three times. There they were given three different bread products to eat: sandwiches and large or small cakes. Bolhuis's toppings were always the same: four different types—jam, syrup, egg salad, and cream cheese—with similar calorie densities. “They were allowed to choose the toppings they wanted to spread on their baked goods and they could eat as much as they wanted.” Bolhuis then looked at how much bread and toppings the test subjects ate for each bread product, as well as how quickly they finished their breakfast.

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Participants spread 36 percent more toppings on the sandwich compared to the mini sandwich. The surface area of ​​the sandwich spread was approximately three times larger, while the weight of the bread products was approximately the same: 36 and 34 grams. This confirms what we already thought; More surface area results in more toppings. However, at the end of each breakfast (whether they ate sandwiches, small or large sandwiches), people consumed the same number of grams and calories, but with different ratios of bread versus spreads and different ratios of macronutrients.

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The findings offer opportunities, says Bollhuis. “By changing the form of the food product eaten with sauce or toppings, this subconsciously causes you to eat more or less of the high-calorie toppings. This allows you to prepare meals or products with different macronutrient compositions, more calories, or less.


The biggest challenge for the future is to create food products that have a delicious structure, but at the same time you don't eat too much of them. “Think, for example, of a product that you eat slowly, but which remains delicious in the meantime. Many products don't become tastier if you chew them for a long time. Then they become boring.

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