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Health - Top Stories

This weird meal-planning tip can help you eat fewer calories

The Daily Meal logo The Daily Meal 2019-02-11 Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
a piece of cake on a plate: Lemon Cheesecake © istockphoto.com Lemon Cheesecake

Now here’s a smart-eating hack we can get behind. Many dieters sacrifice indulgent desserts for fruit or something healthy. But research published Feb. 7 by the American Psychological Association shows that diners who’ve already chosen a rich dessert make better meal choices.

The study’s title gives it away: “If I Indulge First, I Will Eat Less Overall: The Unexpected Interaction Effect of Indulgence and Presentation Order on Consumption.” Participants went through a university cafeteria line where dessert was sometimes presented first, sometimes last.

When dessert was offered first, those who put a slice of rich lemon cheesecake (189 calories) on their tray instead of assorted fruit (70 calories) went on to make smarter choices and consume 30 percent fewer calories, including dessert.

“We believe diners who chose the indulgent dessert first then picked healthier main and side dishes to make up for their high-calorie dessert,” said Martin Reimann, a University of Arizona professor and one of the study authors, in a statement quoted by MarketWatch. “Diners who picked the healthier dessert may have thought they already had done a good deed for their bodies so they deserved higher-calorie food further down the cafeteria line.”

The survey leads to interesting thinking about choices in general, and the whole concept of treating oneself. The survey authors suggested it might be interesting to expand the concept beyond food.

“It would be interesting to test whether nonfood indulgences would have the same effect,” the survey noted. “For example, if an individual were to make food choices right after indulging an expensive massage session or buying a luxury item, would the individual tend to choose either healthier or heavier food options?”

If you’ve been rethinking eating lately, here are your 20 worst lunchtime mistakes and how to fix them.


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