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Research Says Serving Yourself Can Make You Eat Healthier

If you’re prone to making unhealthy snack choices, this trick could help

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Previous research showed that the larger the food portions were, the more people tended to eat. 

Take the matter of your eating habits into your own hands. New research says that serving yourself food, instead of being served, can make all the difference in making healthier choices.

The research involved five experiments, which showed that participants were more inclined to eat food perceived as unhealthy when it required less physical involvement to receive; participants were less inclined to eat unhealthy food when more physical involvement was needed to obtain the food.

“If they’re served by someone else, they can outsource responsibility to someone else,” Dr. Linda Hagen, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, told The Wall Street Journal. “But if they serve themselves, they have to accept responsibility and that makes them feel bad.”

One of the experiments was conducted at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in a waiting room where dried fruit (rated “healthy”) or Reese’s Pieces (rated “unhealthy”) were set out for 189 students.

When Reese’s Pieces were available for sampling in cups, nearly 32 percent of students ate them; but when a bowl of the candy was available with cups and a spoon to self-serve, none of the students indulged the snack.

However, when it came to the dried fruit, there was not a significant difference between the students who ate the snack when they had to serve themselves (6.4 percent) and those who ate the dried fruit when it was served in sampling cups (16.3 percent).


The findings of the five experiments will be published in the Journal of Marketing Research later this year.