6 Weird Ways Your Environment Affects How Much You Eat

6 Weird Ways Your Environment Affects How Much You Eat

If you’re trying to resist the mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and bacon at the buffet, you might want to try filling your plate with fruits and vegetables first, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Cornell University found that when people ate healthy foods first at a buffet, they consumed fewer high-calorie foods later on in the meal.

“The first three food items a person encountered in the buffet comprised 66 percent of their total plate, regardless of whether the items were high or low-calorie foods,” study researcher Brian Wansink, a behavioral economist and professor at the University, said in a statement.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, included 124 people who were eating at one of two breakfast buffets. In the first buffet, healthy foods like low-fat yogurt, low-fat granola and fruit were presented first. In the second, unhealthier foods such as cheesy eggs, bacon and fried potatoes were presented first. All the diners were told they could only make one trip to the buffet.

Researchers found that nearly all the participants offered the fruit first — 86 percent — took it. But when the fruit was offered last, only about half — 54 percent — took it.
Meanwhile, when the cheesy eggs were offered first, 75 percent of the diners took them. But when they were offered last, only 29 percent did. Plus, when cheesy eggs were offered first, researchers found that people were more likely to also take the fried potatoes and bacon. However, fruit being offered first was not linked with a higher likelihood of taking any of the other foods.

“There’s an easy take-away here for us … always start at the healthier end of the buffet,” Wansink added in the statement. “Two-thirds of your plate will be the good stuff!”

Check out more strange things that can affect how much you eat — without you even realizing it:

Where you’re eating

Even if your food doesn’t taste so good, you might continue chowing down depending on your environment. A Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study showed that people ate the same amount of popcorn in a movie theater, whether it was old and stale or fresh and just-popped. “The results show just how powerful our environment can be in triggering unhealthy behavior,” study researcher David Neal, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, said in a statement. “Sometimes willpower and good intentions are not enough, and we need to trick our brains by controlling the environment instead.”

What your friends are ordering

Are your friends getting the fries or the salad? It could have an impact on what you choose to order, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Agricultural and Applied Economic Association. Researchers found that peer pressure did seem to have an effect on what people ordered at a restaurant. “We want to fit in with the people we’re dining with,” study researcher Brenna Ellison, Ph.D., a food economist at the University of Illinois, said in the statement.

The size (and shape) of your wine glass

To curb overpouring of alcohol, consider opting for a slimmer wine glass, according to a Iowa State and Cornell study. Researchers found that certain factors tend to increase the risk of overpouring, such as pouring into a glass held by a person (instead of when it’s on a table), pouring into a wider glass, and pouring into a glass that doesn’t match the color of the wine.

The ambience

Harsh lighting and loud music could be spurring you to eat more calories. Cornell researchers found in a Psychological Reports study that when lighting and music were made softer in restaurants, diners not only ate fewer calories, but also enjoyed their food more. “There are clear implications for restaurants wishing to help consumers slow down and enjoy their food. Yet there are also implications for consumers who want to eat less,” the researchers wrote in the study.

What’s visible in your kitchen shelves

You’re most likely to eat the first thing you see in your kitchen cupboards or fridges, according to another Cornell study. “It’s not just where we place our food in the cupboards or in the refrigerator,” Wansink, the author of this study, previously told HuffPost. “It’s whether we have a cookie bowl sitting out instead of a fruit dish. It’s all these factors, that we think we’re too smart to be fooled by — those end up being our demise.”


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