We might have the best intentions when we make plans to go out to eat, but then once we arrive and see all the delicious options on the menu at hand even the best plans can go astray. But some recent research is suggesting how to get around this and eat healthier more of the time.
The Dutch research ultimately determined that ordering your food through non verbal ways might be the key to making sure that you stick with the healthier option.
To test this out, the researchers went up to people that were dining in a restaurant and offered them some free dessert. Their options to choose from were either chocolate mousse or some fruit. Half of the people were asked which they would prefer, and half of the people were given the option to press a button to make their selection.
The researchers found that when people were answering verbally, two thirds of them went for the mousse, but when they were pressing buttons only 38 percent did. Other experiments have found the same thing, that when people write down their orders, order from vending machines, or grab their own food they are more likely to make healthy decisions than when they are ordering verbally.
These findings seem sort of counter intuitive since you would think that ordering publicly would make people more conscious of their choice (since they are more likely to be judged), but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
The idea behind this is that involving the hands activates a different part of the brain that is involved with impulse control. It is called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Basically, using your hands instead of saying it could trick you into making a better decision as far as your health and waistline is involved.
So what to do with this information? It’s not like we can totally avoid ordering aloud and nor would we want to. (Unless we skip restaurants forever, but who is going to do that?) One trick for eating out is to look carefully at the menu ahead of time and then actually make your decision on what you are going to order. It might not be helpful to just have an idea about what you want since you might be swayed by seeing something delicious being delivered to a table. Just choose something that you can be happy with and then leave it at that.
In other circumstances, like if you were at a food court or something, it might be best to go somewhere you can pick up your own items instead of ordering them if you are often tempted by the fast food boards. Plus, many of the places that offer options that you can pick up yourself have fewer options overall, which might not sound as thrilling but will certainly cut down on some of the decision making that can lead to bad decisions.