Dining in dimly lit restaurants has been linked to eating slowly and ultimately eating less than in brighter restaurants, but does lighting also impact how healthfully we order?
New research findings forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research illustrate that those dining in well-lit rooms are up to 24% more likely to order healthy foods than those in dimly lit rooms.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 160 restaurant patrons at four casual chain restaurant locations. Half of those diners, who were seated in brighter rooms, were more likely to choose healthier options (such as grilled/baked fish, vegetables or white meat) over relatively unhealthy items (such as fried food or dessert).
Sales records showed that those in dimly lit rooms actually ordered 39% more calories. In four additional lab studies involving 700 college-aged students, the researchers replicated these results.
If you feel alert, you'll order healthier foods
The researchers concluded that the main reason that we make healthier choices in well-lit spaces is because they feel more alert. “People feel more alert in brighter rooms and therefore tend to make more healthful decisions," explains the lead study author from the University of South Florida.
Follow-up studies also showed that when diners' alertness was increased with the use of a caffeine placebo or by simply giving a prompt to be alert, those in dimly lit rooms were just as likely as their peers in brightly lit rooms to make more healthful food choices.
Lighting is used to create ambience and enhance the dining experience, which is why many restaurants have dim lights.
The take-away? According to the researchers, doing what you can to make yourself feel alert is the best way to avoid overindulging when "dining-in-the-dark."
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.