How to Make Better Eating Choices
Many dysregulated eaters choose and eat foods impulsively. They see food and grab it. Or they wait until they’re too hungry to think straight and go for what’s quickest to prepare or easiest to swallow. To turn around these behaviors, researchers explain how planning ahead helps to make wiser food choices.
“Try planning your meal before you get hungry” by Roni Caryn Rabin (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 8/23/16, E24) describes why thinking about food ahead of time improves our ability to choose better foods for ourselves. Carnegie Mellon University experiments “found that when there was a significant delay between the time people ordered their food and the time they planned on eating it, they chose lower-calorie meals. What was interesting, researchers said, was that the participants were not making a conscious choice to order less. Most didn’t even realize they were choosing lower-calorie options.”
Eric M. VanEpps, a postdoctoral student who led the experiments, said that people have a “bias toward the present that alters the calculations they make about something that is occurring” in the moment. Invested in what’s going on right now, we tend not to think much about what will happen down the road. However, he says that when we’re ordering for the future, we spend more time considering long-term consequences.
Perhaps this theory is behind the recommendation to look over a menu and decide ahead of time what you’re planning to order before going out for a meal. When you consider possibilities beforehand, you’re usually not feeling pressured to make a rapid response, you’re not surrounded by food or by people who might influence your choice the way you may be in the moment, and you have time to think more rationally about the impact of dietary selections on your health. Alternately, when you’re pressed for time, you may be swayed by what looks tasty, may not consider whether a food is healthful or not, and are more likely to make a decision you may later regret.
Am I saying that you should never make an impulsive decision and enjoy sweets and treats? I am not. That is all-or-nothing thinking which is something that dysregulated eaters need to watch out for and move away from. Sometimes those last-minute food decisions make for sweet and lasting memories. But, for the most part, if you’re looking to eat more nutritiously, get into the habit of thinking about what you’ll be eating later on and you’ll probably be glad you did. I have many friends who review menus before going to a restaurant, so it’s not at all an unusual occurrence. Give it a try.