Waiting 30 seconds between bites helped overweight and obese kids avoid weight gain.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
Updated May 24, 2017
Eating Slowly May Help Overweight Children
Credit: © Lynette Wong / EyeEm

There's been no recent shortage of debate on what children should eat. (Michelle Obama says vegetables; Ted Cruz says french fries.) But a new study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Obesity, shifts the focus to how kids eat. Researchers from California and Mexico conducted a year-long study with 68 12- and-13-year-olds, almost half of whom were overweight or obese. Half the group received a 30-second hourglass timer to use at meal times, which they were instructed to flip when they took a bite, then let it run down before taking another. Researchers also asked them to drink a glass of water before eating, avoid talking while they ate, and avoid seconds and snacks. Kids who didn't receive instructions (or didn't comply with them) finished the year more than 12 pounds heavier, on average. Those who followed directions lost an average of 6.6 pounds.

Other studies have demonstrated that this works for adults, too. When we eat food slowly, our brains have time to recognize that we're full. The "satiety signal," as researchers call it, comes from hormones and enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract and arrives about 15 minutes after eating begins. To avoid overeating, give it a chance to get there.