Environment = What We Eat

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: May 15, 2015

Can our environment really dictate what we eat or what we order or cook for our meals?

According to Brian Wansink, the best-selling author and Cornell professor of nutrition science and consumer behavior, it may just be that way!

Professor Wansink has made a career out of studying the ways people accidentally eat more than they intended to… Raise your hand if you’ve been there…

His work examines how our environment shapes our eating behavior, and how our human preference toward mindless eating doesn’t have to mean overeating…Putting down the fry…

Here is what he found:

In a Restaurant:

  • Ask to be seated by a window. Wansink’s data show diners who eat next to a window are 80 % more likely to order salad.
  • And if you’re trying to avoid sweets, don’t sit at a booth near the bar — according to Wansink’s research, people who sit in that location are 73% more likely to order dessert.
  • Choose a brightly lit restaurant with soft background music and you’ll enjoy your meal more — you’ll also consume fewer calories… Ahhh a nice ambiance..Agreed!
  • Order whatever it is you actually want. “If you tell people to be mindful of what they order, they don’t like it as much and they make up for it later,” Wansink notes. “They tell themselves they deserve ice cream since they virtuously ate a salad for dinner.”
  • Wansink’s research even shows some very specific rules to remember should you find yourself dining at a Chinese buffet: Eat with chopsticks. Choose a smaller plate; Survey the entire buffet before making your selections; Don’t sit close to the buffet; and make sure you’re facing away from the food…. Makes sense, right?

At Home with the Kids:

  • Serve fruit in colorful bowls. Wansink’s research on school children has found that kids eat double the amount of fruit when it’s served in a colorful dish, as compared to a plainer, metal one.
  • And cut up their fruit first. Again, in his research in schools, Wansink observed that when schools served sliced apples, 48%fewer apples were thrown out without being eaten.
  • Improve on vegetables’ branding with some creativity. Wansink’s data show that kids can be tricked into eating 35% more veggies when their veggies are given funny names (X-Ray-Vision Carrots! Silly-Dilly Green Beans!)…Zesty Zanes Zucchini!

At the Grocery Store:

  • Spend at least 10 minutes browsing the produce section. Wansink says people who do end up buying more fruits and veggies than shoppers who zip their way through the produce aisles.
  • Buy the cheaper, bigger box of cereal. Just make sure to divide it up into small containers at home; people tend to eat less when food is served out of a smaller container, according to Wansink’s research.
  • It’s okay to buy the bagged salad. “Purist cooks say, ‘You’re a lazyhead. You should be doing this yourself.’ That’s what my wife says,” Wansink comments. “But when she’s not around, it’s often what I buy. It makes me a whole lot more likely to have a salad, because it takes three steps out of the process.” … We are definitely down for that!

Well there you have it, folks! What and where we eat DOES matter! Now go out there and make some empowered eating decisions!

*Thank you to HuffPost Healthy Living for sharing Professor Brian Wansink’s helpful tips with us! For more HuffPost Healthy Living, click here.


Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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