How a Light Lunch Could Help You Lose Weight

a healthy salad
Eating a portion-controlled lunch won't leave you leave you feeling hungry and can help you lose 25 pounds within a year, the study showed. (Image credit: Vadimfogel | dreamstime)

When we skimp on a meal, we usually end up feeling deprived, ultimately making up for it later by eating a little more — sometimes a lot more.

But a new study shows that eating a portion-controlled lunch won't leave you leave you feeling ravenous, and could actually help you lose 25 pounds within a year.

"Making small reductions in energy intake to compensate for the increasing number of calories available in our food environment may help prevent further weight gain, and one way of doing this could be to consume portion-controlled lunches a few times a week," study co-author Carly Pacanowski, a doctoral student at Cornell University, said in a statement.

Researchers monitored the daily diets of 17 volunteers. The participants were first told to eat whatever they wanted from a buffet provided by the researchers for one week, and the researchers weighed the food before and after the meals.

Then at lunchtime for the next two weeks, half the group was asked to pick from one of six commercially available, portion-controlled foods, such as a pasta plate or a soup cup, but were allowed to eat as much as they wished during other meals or snacks. The other half of the participants continued to eat from the buffet as they wished for all of the meals.

The study showed that when the volunteers ate the portion-controlled lunches, they each consumed 250 fewer calories per day, and lost an average of 1.1 pounds over the two weeks.

This suggests that eating portion-controlled meals is a simple, low-cost way to eat fewer calories, said study co-author David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and psychology at the university.

"The results confirm that humans do not regulate energy intake with any precision. Over a year, such a regimen would result in losing at least 25 pounds," Levitsky said.

The findings will be published in the October issue of the journal Appetite.

Pass it on: Eating a portion-controlled lunch may help you lose weight, because it won't leave you feeling deprived.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.