Eating Well

To Eat More Healthful Meals, Order Food Earlier

Would you like to eat a more healthimages-1ful lunch? Try ordering your food at least an hour before lunchtime. A news release from Carnegie Mellon University reports that researchers at the school have found that people choose higher-calorie meals when ordering immediately before eating and lower-calorie meals when orders are placed an hour or more in advance. Here’s how they know: The researchers did two field studies examining online lunch orders of 690 employees using an onsite corporate cafeteria, and a third study with 195 university students selecting among catered lunch options. Across all three studies, they noted that meals with higher calorie content were ordered and consumed when there were shorter (or no) waiting periods between ordering and eating. In the first study, they looked at more than 1,000 orders that could be placed any time after 7 a.m. to be picked up between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The second study randomly assigned participants to place orders before 10 a.m. or after 11 a.m. The third study randomly assigned university students to order lunch before or after class, with lunches provided immediately after class. In the first study, they found that for every hour of delay between when the order was placed and the food was ready (average delay of 105 minutes), there was a decrease of approximately 38 calories in the items ordered. In the second study, the researchers found that those who placed orders in advance, with an average delay of 168 minutes, had an average reduction of 30 calories (568 vs. 598) compared to those who ordered closer to lunchtime (with an average delay of 42 minutes between ordering and eating). The third study showed that students who placed orders in advance ordered significantly fewer calories (an average of 890 calories) compared to those who ordered at lunchtime (an average of 999 calories).

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