You’ll Eat Healthier If You Do This When Ordering (and Shopping)

If your goal is to make more healthful food choices, researchers say to place your takeout order a good 60 minutes before the breakfast, lunch, or dinner bell rings. Investigators from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University conducted three studies — two of the experiments focused on […]

If your goal is to make more healthful food choices, researchers say to place your takeout order a good 60 minutes before the breakfast, lunch, or dinner bell rings.

Investigators from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University conducted three studies — two of the experiments focused on online lunch orders, while the third analyzed catered lunch options. In all three trials, the 885 students and employees were more likely to choose higher-calorie dishes when they had a small fraction of time (even zero minutes) between ordering their meal and consuming it.

Lead study author Eric M. VanEpps, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, concluded that ordering meals further in advance can “drastically reduce” the “likelihood of making indulgent purchases.”

“The implication is that restaurants and other food providers can generate health benefits for their customers by offering the opportunity to place advance orders,” he stated in a press release.

“These findings make a lot of sense to me,” Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD, a celebrity nutritionist in a Los Angeles, tells Yahoo Beauty. “The participants who ordered their meals ahead of time were likely making more mindful, conscious decisions based on their long-term goals, versus a heat-of-the-moment choice based on an impulse.”

This healthy eating strategy can be implemented into other aspects of life. For example, when it comes to dining out, Lenchewski advises her clients to visit the online menu of the restaurant before heading to the eatery. “This really helps prevent us from getting sidetracked by our dining companions.”

If stopping someplace for a bite is a last-minute decision, she suggests feasting your eyes on the appetizers instead of the main dishes. “Oftentimes, there are amazing, simple, high-protein options on the menu, like grilled octopus and roasted veggies, that can be mixed and matched for entrées,” says Lenchewski.

Also, avoid strolling up and down the aisles of the grocery store on an empty stomach. And put an end going to parties — as well as into every meal — hangry. “Once you’re absolutely famished, all bets are off and it’s virtually impossible to decipher what’s actually worth eating and when you’re full,” says Lenchewski. “This is where having snacks high in protein and healthy fats, like nuts, come in handy.”

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