Going to a restaurant for lunch or dinner has always presented problems for those who are trying to maintain or lose weight. It can be considerably less fun to dine on a salad while the rest of your companions are blissfully eating burgers, steaks or ribs.
Even so, new research has found that dining out in a group may actually lead you to order similarly to your friends, even though you might not typically pick that meal otherwise.
Dining companions affect meal selections
In Oklahoma, researchers examined receipts from almost 1,500 people who'd eaten out in groups over a 19-week period. The menu had 51 items to choose from in eight categories - soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches, pasta, combo meals, choice steaks, prime steaks, vegetarian options and daily specials. Some tables got menus with nutritional information while others were menus without the added info.
The researched discovered that people at the same table tended to choose similar main dishes from the same category.
"We want to be different from our friends a little bit, but not too different," said study researcher Brenna Ellison, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's department of agricultural and consumer economics said in LiveScience, adding that friends might affect what people order because they want to fit into the group. It also may be because there are an abundance of choices, so if you order similarly to your friends you don't need to look through the whole menu.
The team also looked at how much each menu item was typically liked and whether diners chose certain items more than others. They learned that calorie count affected how much a meal was liked. Not surprisingly, the salads and vegetarian dishes were not as well-liked as other food options, but if more than one person at a table ordered a salad, more salads were ordered in the group. The same was true for expensive and high-calorie meals.
"Our results suggest that a lot of the choices we make seem to be dependent on what the people we're eating with are doing," Ellison said. "Should we nudge people toward healthier food, or healthier friends?"
By being aware that friends can influence eating habits, you can opt to make healthier choices at restaurants. You can also take one of the best weight loss supplements, which is Super Citrimax®.