Dessert at The Start of a Meal Can Change Your Overall Body


Eating an indulgent dessert at the beginning of your meal may make you to pick healthier meal options, based on new study.

Researchers conducted four experiments, both in a cafeteria and on a mock food-delivery website, to see if choosing a healthy or unhealthy dessert at the start of a meal would impact participants’ main and side dish choices.

The researchers put indulgent desserts, such as lemon cheesecake, and healthy desserts, such as fresh fruit, at the beginning of a university cafeteria line or as the first preference on a website. The meals had a fixed-price so cost of the desserts wasn’t a factor.

Diners consumed an average of 30% fewer calories when they have the indulgent dessert first.

Researchers found out that diners who chose indulgent desserts would then chose lower-calorie main or side dishes and consume fewer calories than participants who eat healthier desserts.

“We assume diners who prefer the indulgent dessert first picked healthier main and side dishes to make up for their high-calorie dessert,” explains Martin Reimann, assistant professor of marketing in the University of Arizona Eller College of Management.

“Diners who picked the healthier dessert may have thought they already had done a good favor for their bodies so they were worth higher-calorie food farther down the cafeteria line.”

Diners consumed an average of 30 percent fewer calories when they chose the indulgent dessert first.

The result was not steady with individuals who had a lot on their minds. If a participant was confused, they chose the indulgent dessert first and continued to make unhealthy choices for the rest of the meal.

“This research is the first to reveal the interaction effect of food type and food presentation order on individuals’ successive food choices and their total caloric intake. This work showed that, when selecting foods in a sequence, individuals are affected by the first item they see and tend to make their subsequent food selections on account of this first item. This notion can be utilized to guide individuals into consuming less food overall,” the researchers write.

This study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. Additional coauthors are from the Tecnológico de Monterrey.