How Procrastination Can Improve Your Eating Habits

A California Institute of Technology study found that you often make healthier food choices when you take longer to consider your options. If you make a hasty decision, youíre more likely to base your choice solely on taste rather than the healthfulness of a food. These findings can definitely come in handy the next time you find yourself searching for a snack.

TASTE COMES BEFORE HEALTH

Most of us naturally like and dislike certain foods. Our taste preferences are not something we can change easily. Whereas, our knowledge of what makes a food healthy can change somewhat regularly as new information is discovered about nutrition, or new foods come on the market.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology wanted to see if this difference affects our food choices. Do we make food choices based on our fixed tastes, or based on our changing knowledge of nutrition?

The study asked volunteers to fast for four hours, then to rate 160 foods on their healthfulness, tastiness, and how much the participant wanted to eat the food after the test.

Next, the volunteers were asked to choose between two randomly selected pairings of those same foods on a computer screen by clicking on their preference with a mouse.

By looking at the subtle movements of the computer mice as people made their choices, the researchers were able to determine some of their decision-making processes.

Their main conclusion was that people consider the taste of food about 9 percent earlier than they consider a foodís healthfulness. The difference was measured in milliseconds, but it was a significant difference.

In addition, those who consistently exercised self-control and chose healthier foods throughout the test actually started to consider the healthfulness of food sooner than those who chose unhealthy options.

This seems to show that those who take health into consideration earlier also take it more seriously in their final decision.

On the other hand, 32 percent of participants were moved by taste alone. The healthfulness of food never influenced their decisions. Researchers didnít look into why this was, but it shows a potential need for education around nutrition in a portion of the population.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE YOUR FOOD CHOICES

This research highlights a few different areas you can take advantage of to make better food choices yourself.

1. Give Yourself Time

When faced with a decision of what food to eat, take a few moments to decide. The study found that people can start to consider the healthfulness of food within milliseconds after they consider taste. The amount of time was very small, so simply pausing to see what other food is in your fridge can make all the difference in your final choice.

2. Picture the Future

While youíre making your food choice, try considering how each food will make you feel. Will you regret eating it and feel lousy afterwards? Or will the food give you energy and youíll feel happy that youíre maintaining a healthy diet?

3. Take an Interest in Nutrition

A full 32 percent of the studyís volunteers chose food based solely on taste, with no thought to nutrition. You can prevent making poor food choices based on taste alone by arming yourself with some basic knowledge of nutrition. An excellent place to start is the Healthy Eating Plate developed by the Harvard School of Public Health. Itís a very simple overview of the main food groups you should try to include throughout your day.

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79 comments

Elizabeth M
Past Member about a month ago

Thank you

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Frances G
Frances Gabout a month ago

thank you

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Ann B
Ann Babout a month ago

noted

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

Thanks.

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Joemar K
Joemar Karvelisabout a month ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Thanks

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Diane E
Diane Eabout a month ago

Thank you. I enjoy healthier food and usually eat very little salt or sugar, though I enjoy the odd chocolate!

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Daniel N
Daniel Nabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii p1 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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danii p
danii p1 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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