02 November 2012

Fast Food Dining

Warren’s typical lunch, with or without
tuna or sardines (white item is tofu,
bread spread is hummus). Salad is
followed by frozen yogurt (nonfat),
nuts and hot tea (green).
Welcome back. You may recall my earlier blog post about the healthful breakfast I partake of daily. Sadly, it elicited no breakfast invitation. From that post, however, you might have concluded that I maintain a healthful diet, which is true.

In addition to being attentive to research that might lead me to modify my diet or supplements, I’m generally aware of actions and events relating to eating per se. I’m not referring to Mrs. Obama’s war on obesity or Mayor Bloomberg’s war on big sodas; I mean research findings that must be shared. Today, I’ve got one of those.

Older Research on Eating

Before the new, I should mention some of the old. I refer you to Cornell University’s Food and Brand Laboratory for more information (see my P.S.).

One finding that’s been around for a while is that you’ll probably eat less if you use a smaller plate. What’s interesting is that you or the school cafeteria can turn it around by using larger plates for veggies and healthy stuff.

Another not so new finding that’s making the news lately is that offering “X-Ray Vision” carrots, “Power-Punch” broccoli and “Silly Dilly” green beans, instead of less imaginatively named veggies, had a tremendous impact on their selection and consumption in school cafeterias by pre-teens.

An older, yeah, that makes sense finding is that adding a “low-fat” label to a snack will change the quantity eaten. People eat more if the label tells them it’s low fat.

There’s an older finding I’m still pondering. The way kids pay in a school cafeteria influences their choice of food. Students who paid with cash rather than with a debit card chose healthier foods.

Fast Food Restaurants

The latest finding on eating per se relates specifically to fast-food restaurants.

I bypass hamburger-focused, fast-food restaurants unless I’m traveling, and then primarily for the restroom and coffee. That wasn’t the case when my daughter and son were growing up. Stopping was de rigueur, especially with my daughter, who I bet still shudders if a veggie sneaks onto her plate,
large or small.

From time to time, she and I would go to a Chinese restaurant, located across a busy road from a fast-food restaurant. She would wait, famished, while I ate Chinese. Then we would drive across the road for her take-out, take-home, hamburger-based dinner.

Research on Fast-Food Dining

Although the latest finding would not have impacted my take-out daughter and certainly not my son, who used to bounce off restaurant walls, it’s still very promising.

If the fast-food restaurant uses softer music and lighting, diners eat fewer calories.

To conduct the study, the researchers took control of a fast-food restaurant. They found that softening the music and lighting had no effect on what people ordered, but that the diners ate 18 percent less of what they ordered. Moreover, the diners rated the food more enjoyable.

Wrap Up

I’ve seen the abstract of the latest study but not the actual report, which likely provides the nominal age of study participants. I’d guess it doesn’t work with teens and younger. Also, I expect there’s a limit to the study parameters. I mean the softest music would be none and the softest lighting…well, you see where I’m going.

Overall, though, I think it’s very cool and wonder: Are you listening, Michelle? Mayor? Thanks for stopping by.


Review of fast-food restaurant study:

Abstract of fast-food restaurant study:
Cornell Food and Brand Lab with links to key studies:

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