Indulgent desserts could lead to healthier meals
Choosing a high-calorie indulgent dessert may lead you to pick up healthier main and side dishes, according to a study. The study placed either a healthy or less healthy dessert (fresh fruit vs lemon cheesecake) at the beginning or end of a university cafeteria line.
When diners picked the cheesecake first, they then chose lower-calorie main or side dishes and ultimately consumed fewer calories than diners who chose the fresh fruit first. Those effects were not found when either dessert was placed at the end of the food line, researchers said. “We believe diners who chose the indulgent dessert first then picked healthier main and side dishes to make up for their high-calorie dessert,” said Martin Reimann, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona in the US.
“Diners who picked the healthier dessert may have thought they already had done a good deed for their bodies so they deserved higher-calorie food further down the cafeteria line,” Reimann said. Three additional online experiments that mimicked a food delivery website had similar findings, except when participants were distracted because they had a lot on their mind. In that case, participants who chose the indulgent dessert first were more likely to keep making unhealthy choices by picking high-calorie main and side dishes, researchers said.
In the cafeteria experiment, researchers interviewed 134 diners about healthy eating after they passed through the cafeteria line. Over four days, lemon cheesecake or fresh fruit (but not both) was placed first in the line or at the end of the line.
There also were healthy and less healthy main and side dishes. Diners who chose the indulgent dessert first consumed an average of 30 per cent fewer calories (including the dessert) than diners who picked the healthier dessert first. Diners who chose the cheesecake first also were twice as likely to order the lighter main dish than diners who picked the cheesecake at the end of the line.