Want to Make Healthy Food Choices? Try Making Healthy Friends.

When researchers analyzed thousands of table orders from an Oklahoma restaurant over the span of 19 weeks, they found that people tended to order like their friend regardless of health concerns presented by menus.

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When researchers analyzed thousands of table orders from an Oklahoma restaurant over the span of 19 weeks, they found that people tended to order like their friend regardless of health concerns presented by menus. "Diners at the same table tended to pick main dishes that were not exactly the same, but were from the same category — for example, if one diner ordered a mushroom burger, another might have ordered a bleu cheese burger." Brenna Ellison, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, said: "We want to be different from our friends a little bit, but not too different."

What's the Big Idea?

It's well known that most individuals want badly to fit into a larger social group and many are willing to sacrifice their identity--and in this case, their health--to do so. "In general, people didn't really like salads or vegetarian dishes, compared with the other food choices. But in the study, that changed if more than one person at a table ordered a salad: the more salads that were ordered, the more people liked them." The study has interesting implications for policy makers. Should they be encouraging people to eat better or to have healthier friends?

Read more at Scientific American

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