How Your Friends Control Your Diet

And why ordering first is best

Jul 9, 2014
Outside Magazine
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If you hate what you ordered, you now have an excuse to blame your friends.    Digital Vision./ThinkStock

If you want your friends to eat healthier foods when you dine out, order first.

After analyzing nearly 1,500 receipts from people who ate meals together, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people gravitated toward similar meals when ordering in groups, even if they wouldn’t naturally choose those dishes. So, order first and pick the salad to influence the group.

“We want to be different from our friends a little bit, but not too different,” researcher Brenna Ellison said in an interview with LiveScience. “Our results suggest that a lot of the choices we make seem to be dependent on what the people we’re eating with are doing.”

Ellison realized that people chose dishes they might not have by themselves—calorie-dense or expensive foods, for example—if even one person at a table decided to order it. In a way, people look to each other for permission.

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