This Fast-Food-Loving, Organics-Hating Ivy League Prof Will Trick You Into Eating Better
J Thoendell stashed this in Food
I'm here at an Applebee's in Ithaca, New York, where Brian Wansink, a Cornell food psychologist, is evaluating my dining habits. So far, he says, I've got a few things going for me: We are seated by the window, which his research has shown makes us 80 percent more likely to order salad. And had we chosen a booth near the bar, our risk of ordering dessert would have been 73 percent greater. I should be glad, he says, that the ceiling lamps are casting a cheery glow and that Paula Cole's "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" is playing softly; dim lighting and loud music are associated with consuming a lot of calories, not to mention lower satisfaction with the meal.
Maybe it's thanks to the felicitous environment that, when the waitress arrives, I dutifully order the strawberry-and-avocado salad with grilled chicken. Then it's Wansink's turn. "I'll have the bacon-and-ranch wedge salad," he says. "Then the French onion soup and the cheeseburger sliders. And a Diet Coke."
He seems pleased with himself. "I ordered basic comfort food," he offers cheerfully. "You ordered a little funkier." I try not to scowl. "If you tell people to be mindful of what they order, they don't like it as much and they make up for it later," he explains. "They tell themselves they deserve ice cream since they virtuously ate a salad for dinner."
9 ways to eat better without trying:
- Shove that breakfast cereal in the kitchen cabinet! In Wansink's studies, people who kept their cereal visible—even the healthy hippie stuff—weighed 21 pounds more on average than those who keep it out of sight.
- Serve yourself from the stovetop rather than family style on the table. People who did so ate 19 percent less.
- Pick red wine instead of white (subjects who did so poured 9 percent less); drink it from a tall, thin glass instead of a short, fat one (12 percent less); and set the glass on a table when you pour, rather than holding it (12 percent less).
- Make sure the color of your food contrasts that of your plate. When they matched, Wansink found, people consumed 22 percent more food.
- At restaurants, request a table near the front door. People sitting far from the entrance were 73 percent more likely to order dessert.
- If a restaurant offers high-top bar tables, snag one. Wansink predicts you'll be less likely to order fried food.
- Want your kid to choose apple slices instead of fries at McDonald's? Ask her, "What would Batman choose?" Even if she answered "fries," she'll be more likely to order the apples. "Simply having to answer for anyone else seems to make them think twice—and often change their order," Wansink notes.
- Chew gum while grocery shopping. (Mint-flavored seems to work best.) People who did so bought 7 percent less junk food.
- Pack a lunch for work. In Wansink's studies, bag lunchers consumed less food than did people who ate out.