Can a messy kitchen lead to more sweet snacking?

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How messy is your kitchen? A new study suggests that chaotic environments, such as a messy kitchen, and our mind-set in that environment may affect our ability to make healthy choices when it comes to snacking.

Choosing healthy meals and snacks can help to maintain a healthy weight and decrease cancer risk. This means that by decreasing chaos and feeling more in control, you may make it easier to eat healthy for cancer prevention.

The study is published in the Environment and Behavior journal.

messy and clean kitchen
Can a messy kitchen lead to eating more sweets?

Female college undergraduate students were put into either a standard kitchen or a messy chaotic kitchen. The standard kitchen was organized and quiet with no disruptions. In contrast the chaotic kitchen was messy with tables out of place and pots and pans scattered around. During the experiment, the chaotic kitchen participants were interrupted by researchers moving tables and banging put and pans as they cleaned up the mess.

Once in the kitchen, participants were asked to write about a time that they felt either organized and in control or chaotic and out of control in order to bring about these respective mind-sets.

Researchers then gave the students cookies, crackers, and carrots to taste and rate. Participants were invited to eat as much of each food as they wanted.

Those in the messy kitchen with the out of control mind-set ate 68 more calories worth of cookies compared to those in the control mind-set. The chaotic environment did not affect cracker or carrot consumption. The mind-set did not affect snacking in the standard organized kitchen environment.

Results suggest that chaotic environments may lead to increased snacking in women. And our mindset can moderate this effect.

This means that by de-cluttering our kitchens and possibly other environments we may be able to better control our food intake for cancer prevention. Also, when we do find ourselves in a chaotic environment, thinking about a time when we were organized and in control may help us resist excess snacking.


Author: Samantha

Samantha Tryon MS, RD is a dietitian living in Washington, DC. Sam is a former high school teacher who is passionate about making science information accessible to the public and promoting healthy behaviors and a positive body image.

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