Encouraging consumers to select meals in advance rather than at mealtime is thought to promote healthier eating decisions. This strategy takes advantage of the improved self-control, which is thought to accompany decisions about the future.
In a recent study, scientists find that placing orders in advance can lead to healthier food choice. The finding is published in Journal of Marketing Research.
Researchers from University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University conducted the study.
In two field studies at an employee cafeteria and a third in a university setting, researchers examined how time delays between placing a lunch order and picking it up affected the healthfulness of that lunch.
In the first study, researchers found that longer delays between placing an order and picking up the meal were associated with less calories in the meal.
In the second study, researchers tested the causality of this relationship by restricting some lunch orders to be substantially delayed. The result showed a reduction in calories among delayed orders.
In the third study, researchers compared lunch orders for truly immediate eating versus orders placed in advance. They found a significant (100 calories, or approximately 10%) reduction in lunch calories among orders in advance.
Researchers suggest that meal decisions made in the heat of the moment are not as far-sighted as those made in advance. Future work can test whether people who cut calories in one meal might “make up” for the calorie reduction later.
Citation: VanEpps EM, et al. (2016). Advance Ordering for Healthier Eating? Field Experiments on the Relationship between the Meal Order–Consumption Time Delay and Meal Content. Journal of Marketing Research, 53: 369-380. DOI: 10.1509/jmr.14.0234.
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