Choosing Your Dessert First Might Actually Be Healthy, Study Finds

Turns out reaching for the sweets menu first isn't such a bad thing.

In fact, if you're more likely to be eyeing off that decadent chocolate mud cake or Tiramisu before you pick your main meal, you might be making healthier choices overall.

A new study published by the American Psychological Association has found that diners who initially pick out a high-calorie dessert are more likely to choose a healthier main course, and consume fewer calories across their entire meal.

Which could be very good news for anyone who feels guilty for daydreaming about luxurious chocolatey treats before lunchtime.

chocolate cake GIF

Researchers conducted an experiment at a cafeteria at the EGADE Business School at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico -- placing either fresh fruit or lemon cheesecake at the beginning and end of the cafeteria line.

The diners -- aged between 18-60 --  who selected the cheesecake first were more likely to opt for a low-calorie lunch (like grilled chicken fajitas). While those who selected fruit first tended to think they deserved a reward and overcompensated with richer main meals (like fried fish and chips).

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"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 lead study author Martin Reimann, PhD, from the University of Arizona.

"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."

ice cream seinfeld GIF

The university diners who picked out a decadent dessert first consumed an average of 30 per cent fewer calories than those who chose fruit, researchers found.

And because of the popularity of apps like Uber Eats or Menulog, the study also included three mock online food delivery websites, which delivered very similar results to the cafeteria experiment.

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In one of the online tests, 160 participants were asked how hungry they were and how much they expected to eat of each menu item they selected.

Researchers estimated that the participants who chose chocolate cake over fruit salad would end up consuming fewer calories overall.

kirsten dunst cake GIF

"This work showed that when selecting foods in a sequence (e.g., at a buffet or on a food ordering website), individuals are influenced by the first item they see and tend to make their subsequent food choices on the basis of this first item," the study explained.

So it seems as though we humans are extremely influenced by the first thing our eyes lock on to when it's feeding time.

"People should be aware that their initial food choices and their mindset may affect the overall healthiness of their meals," Reimann said.

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