According to a new study published in the journal Health Psychology, even something as simple as the color red might make you stop eating--or at least keep your portions to a minimum.

Researchers from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab conducted two studies to test whether seeing edible stop signs in their food would help consumers practice self-restraint. A group of 98 students were given tubes of chips to snack on while watching video clips in class. In the first study, red-dyed chips were inserted every seventh (one serving size) and 14th chip (two serving sizes) with a control group munching on regular chips. In the second study, the special chips were inserted every fifth and 10th chip. None of the participants knew what the red-dyed chips meant.

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Quite interestingly, the results revealed that those who had red-dyed chips ate 50 percent less than those who were part of the control group. In addition, they were also able to recount the number of chips they had eaten more accurately compared to members of the control group who underestimated the number by about 13 chips.

According to researchers, it’s normal not to keep count of how many chips you've eaten. People also generally tend to eat one of everything. There are two possible reasons, study authors say, for such mindless eating. The first is that humans are generally not good at self-monitoring; the second is that we mistakenly think that we are eating just the right amount. Either way, both situations lead to overeating.

This new study, then offers an idea on how we can curb the tendency to overeat at home. While food companies may or may not be willing to support something that might affect their sales, we can do things like this on our own. In the meantime, try making your own version of stop markers at home with some red food coloring the next time you prepare a snack for your family.

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(Photo by William Jones via Flickr Creative Commons; edits by Mike Dee)

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