Thinking deeply about eating sweets can quell your appetite so much that you end up eating less of them.
The findings come from research that involved asking groups of volunteers to imagine eating a given number of sugar-coated sweets or cubes of cheese and then comparing how much food they actually ate after they had performed their imaginary eating.
People who imagined eating the treats for a given number of mouthfuls suppressed their appetite for them.
Carey Morewedge of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, who led the investigation, published in the journal Science, said: "Our studies found that people who repeatedly imagined the consumption of a morsel of food ate less of that food than those who imagined consuming the food a few times or performed a similarly engaging task. We think these findings will help develop interventions to reduce cravings for unhealthy food, drugs and cigarettes."