Eating small portions of food throughout the day doesn’t necessarily pack on the pounds, a new study suggests.
Researchers at Oslo University Hospital in Norway found no link between nibbling and a high body mass index (how much body fat a person has, based on their height and weight).
Nibbling was defined as unplanned or repetitious eating between snacks and meals. It also contained an element of control – that is, if a study participant felt out of control of their eating, it was considered binge eating, not nibbling.
In the study, 58 Norwegian women between the ages of 19 and 41 reported their eating habits of the previous month, distinguishing among nibbling, snacks, and meals. Most women reported nibbling on six to 12 days of the previous month; 9 percent reported no nibbling; and 5 percent nibbled every day.
The research is limited due to the unreliable nature of self-reports, and the fact the women were not weighed, so researchers did not know if any of the nibblers gained weight.
Despite the study’s results, anyone who nibbles or otherwise consumes more calories than he or she burns off will gain weight, notes study researcher and psychologist Deborah Reas.